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THE 



Luck of the House 



A NOVEL. 



By ADELINE SERGEANT, 

Author of " Seventy Times Sevetty' " Uuj[ler False 

J^retencesJ* etc. 



MONTREAL; 

JOHN LOVELL & SON, 
23 St. Nicholas Street. 



5^H L u 



1947 



Entered according to Act of Parliament in the year 1889, by 
John Lovell 6r* Son, in the office of Minister of Agriculture and 
Statistics at Ottawa. 



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V 

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by 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE 



J 



LOVELL'S 

CANADIAK COPYRIGHT SERIES 

OP CHOICE FICTION. 



KTe rj book In tkU ••rlo* Is puMUhed ky armnKeineot 
with the Author, to whom • Royalty U paid. 



I. 



a. 



THE WING OF AZRAEL. By Mona 
Cairo, . .. .« .. 30 

THE FATAL PHRYNE. By F. C. 
Phiups,Author of "As in a Looking 
Glass," (Sr'c., . . . . . . 30 

THE SEARCH FOR BASIL LYND- 
HURST. By Rosa Nouchette 

It^ARKYy •■ •« •• •• ^O 

TFill issue, June 8. 

DERRICK VAUGHAN, NOVELIST. 
By Edna Lyall, .. .. 30 

Will issue, June 10. 

THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. By 
Adeline Sergeant, . . . . 30 
'Will issue, Jane 14. 

SOPHIE CARMINE. By John 

Strange Winter, .. 30 

COMEDY OF A COUNTRY HOUSE. 
By Julian Sturgess, .. .. 30 

THAT OTHER WOMAN. By Annie 
Thomas, 30 

9. JEZEBEL'S FRIENDS. By Dora 

Russell, 30 

10. THE PENNYCOMEQUICKS. By S. 

Baring Gould, .. .. 50 

11. HEDRI. By Helen Mathers, 30 

12. THE CURSE OF CARNE HOLD. 

By G. A. Henty, .. .. 30 



5 



6. 



8 



Cents. 

Cents. 

Cents. 

Cents. 

Cents. 

Cents. 

Cents. 

Cents . 

Cents. 

Cents. 
Cents. 

Cents. 



JOHH LOVELL & SON, Publishers, 

23 and 26 Bt. Nicholai St., Montreal. 



*(f%T 



..^., 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



CHAPTER I. 



ON DECK. 

Clear and bright, with the crystalline cleanness and 
brightness of atmosphere peculiar to Scotland, the brilliant 
summer day drew softly to a close. There was no cloud 
in the solemn blue depths overhead, but around the sink- 
ing sun a few fleecy masses had been turned into crimson 
and gold, and were reflected in gleaming light and glancing 
blood-red hues from the bosom of the majestic river, as it 
widened between receding banks towards the Northern 
Sea. A London steamer, making its way up the channel 
to a port on the North-Eastern coast, whither it was bound, 
seemed to be plunging into a mystical land of glory as it 
turned its head towards the burning West. 

So it seemed, at least, to a girl who was standing on the 
deck, with her eyes fixed upon the shore, which was half 
lost in a golden haze. " We seem to have come to a City 
of Gold," she said, smiling, to a gentleman who stood at 
her side. 

" Some people have found it so," he answered, rather 
drily. " A good many fortunes have been lost and won 
in the good old town of Dundee." 

She moved a little, as if sl^e did not quite like his tone. 

" I did not mean that,'' she said, in a lowered voice. 

" I know you did not," said John Hannington, with a 
swift look at the sweet, girlish face to which he was almost 
sure that he had lost his heart during the last two days. 
" I knew you had some meaning that an unlucky brute like 
myself is certain to misunderstand. Something too beau- 
tiful and transcendental for my poor ears." 

" Oh, no, no," said the girl, deprecatingly. She colored 
a little at his words. " My thought was a very foolish 
one." 

" Will you not tell me what it was ? " said Hannington, 
drawing a little nearer. " Do tell me." 



THE LUCK OF TIIR HOUSE. 



She had a very charming face, he thought. She looked 
half-frightened at his re(]uest, and then a brave, modest 
expression came into her beautiful blue eyes, "it is not 
worth making a secret of," she said. *• I only thought — 
when I saw the golden light making those hills and build- 
ings look so dream-like and unsubstantial — of JJunyan's 
' Pilgrim's Progress,' and the Celestial City that the pil- 
grims saw from afar." 

In the silent evening air, speech sometimes travels fur- 
ther than we know. rhe girl was quite unconscious that 
her clear, fine utterance had reached the ear of one other 
person l)eside her immediate auditor. A middle-aged man 
with a grave, keen face, who had been leaning over the 
bulwarks, with his eyes fixed abstractedly on the water, 
and his head turned away from the golden gloiy of the 
West, was struck by her words. He changed his position 
a little, so that he could see the girl's fair profile, studied 
it for a moment or two with a look of kindly interest, then 
rose up and walked away. But as he passed the couple, 
he heard John Hannington's reply. 

An amused laugh came first. Then a half apology. 

" I laugh from surprise, not from amusement. Miss 
Raeburn. The imagination required to convert smoky, 
whisky-loving, jute-manufacturing Dundee into a Celestial 
City is prodigious. Bunyan himself could not have pos- 
sessed more." 

" Ah, you do not understand," said the girl, smiling her- 
self now and shaking her head. " I had forgotten Dundee 
altogether. But you must not abuse it ; because it is going 
to be my home." 

The gentleman who had passed them was out of hearing 
by this time. 

" Do you know who that is ? " said Hannington, look- 
ing after him with interest. " MoncriefT of Torresmuir ; 
one of the wealthiest men in Scotland. Some people say, 
one of the most unfortunate. But I'm not among the 
number." 

"Why?" 

" Why unfortunate ? or why am I not among the people 
who call him so ? Well, I'll answer both questions, Misi 
Raeburn. In the meantime, won't you sit down ? " H.i 
grasped a small deck chair by the back-rail, and gently 
pushed it towards her. " You can look at the sky while 



ThE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



you sit just as well as if you were standing, you know," he 
said, in the broad, easy-going way which made John Han- 
nington such a favorite with his acquaintance, while the 
girl accepted the seat with a little nod of thanks and a 
])leasant smile. •' As to Mon< rieff — he lost his wife three 
or four years ago under specially sad circumstances; she 
was thrown out of a i)()ny cart which he was driving, and 
killed before his eyes. Then, his only son is weakly — in 
fact, something of an invalid. He has a young daughter, I 
believe, ])Ut no other child." 

** How very sad ! " said Miss Raeburn. Her gentle eyes 
were full of sympathy. " His wife's death must have been 
a great loss to him." 

"Conventionally, yes," answered Mr. Hannington, fin- 
gering his black moustache, with a smile. He found Miss 
Raeburn's simplicity a(loral)le, and thanked fate for send- 
ing him on board the steamer from London to Dundee, 
where he had found h^r in the charge of a lady with whom 
he was acquainted. ** In real life, you know, the death of 
a wife does not always leave a man inconsolable. It is 
rumored that Mr. and Mrs. Moncrieff did not get on very 
well." 

"Oh, then, he is even more unfortunate than I 
thought," said the young girl, quickly. 

"You think I am very hardhearted because I do not 
call him so ? I understand. To a sweet-natured, loving 
woman, it must j-eem strange — the callous way in which 
we men of the world look at things ! " cried John Han- 
nington, with apparent impetuosity. He was really very 
much on his guard. "To a worldly man like myself, Miss 
Raeburn, it does not seem that Mr. Moncriefl is anything 
but a lucky man. He has a fine estate ; he has a splendid 
income and a magnificent bouse ; he has — or may have — 
all the official County distinctions which he wants; no 
career is closed to him ; and, although he has lost his first 
wife, whom rumor says that he did not love, he is free and 
able to many again; and to marry whom he pleases — 
which many men are not." 

A harsh note was audible in his voice. The girl kept 
silence. She was still gazing towards the West, where the 
light war growing faded and dull. It seemed to her, sud- 
denly, that if she listened long to Mr. Hannington's worldly 
« wisdom, litb also would fade in brightness as surely as 



t Tftfi t.rcA' or run iiorsK 

\\\i\\ Wr^loin nk\, \\\\\ \\,\\\\\\\\\i,[\^\\ knew wiml he wii« 

••Wimt A\\\ I siivinw?" \\v hrnkr tnH. will) nn nrrrilt of 
■\uMon ni'll rrpio.u h " \\\\\\\ \\\\^ mv hnnl, uorMly nmximi 
«|>on you, who im* so [,\\ nhovi' nu* so \\\\ hmhovlmI fnnn 
evil- > 

"(>h» plortxo, Mr. Hnunn^lnn, tlo not l.tlk in th.it >vny I'* 
Rai<1 tho uJtl, >vit)) dtoopinu h«Mi1 ;\\\\\ Ihishing i hrcks. \tu1 
Stt'llrt UiU'l»imMvoMl«l not hiur l>iM'n rt ' * -^ ' - 



yei : 

if tho 



(listustrl'iil. 



^irl of nlnftocn 
Mr. lliinning^ 



ho Hiiitl, in 



rtrtttorv >voro nItomMhn 
Um know th.U woll iMiongh. 

"I ntHst toll yon htlino \\v sopar.tto no , 

(igit.ttod tonos, " thiM simo I know vo\i, 1 hnvo folt ji <Hf- 
foiTMU inlhionro. I luno toh rt« thonfih m nohhM, higlior 
Ufo woro poHsihlo. I hiuo soon tliot yonr standnrit wm 
higher thrtn nnno, »in<l h.uf wishoM wi^hoil hittorly, nni! 
I feci vainly thi»t I totiM wwmw to it !" Ilo stoppod short 
fts if emotion impedotl his \ittoranoo ; anii Stella attempted 
a fexv xvonis of <lopnMation. 

" \ am not worth snrh praiso : I ran only *.vish that my 
own Rtamlanl wori^ higher," she mnnnnred. 

" Ah, ilon't ron\ovo yo\irsolf fnrtlu r front me than you 
Are now," he ploadeil. aniontly. " Ho still yo\irself — Ihc 
star of my <lark night tho gnidittg star, that points with- 
out its own knowleclgo, without its own volition, to the 
birthplace of all that is most saored, most holy, in the 
^-orld." 

She shrank a little. Tn her peaceful maidenliness It 
seemed to her as if his referent e to the Star of llethlehem 
were half profane. He felt the momei\tary recoil. 

" Forgi\-e me if t say too much. Vour very name sug- 
gests it. Stella, your frionds call yo\i, do they not? I 
never hear it without ren\eml>ering all sorts of poetic fan- 
cies, lines that poets have written, a\ul fahles that have been 
told about the stars. Will you forgive me?" 

'* So loupi as I have only poetic laiuies to forgive — it is 
not much ! " said Stella, lightly. Hut she rose from her 
scat as she spoke and began to move about the deck, 
where scverai other ]>ersons were sitting or standing. 
Hannii\gton know that he had gone far enough. The girl 
was sensitive, and |K^rhaps a little proud, in spite of all her 
gentleness. He hovered near her. as she walked, but he 
did not s])eak a^^iain till she addresse<l him. But he knew 
that silence is sometimes as c(Tecii\-c as speech. 



WK LUCK' or rtir fiorsr.. f 

i 'fille, Allrtii M«itu riifTnf Tdrrrmiuiir, \hr tal' nnd 

HtfUoly !(»okiti^ iiitiii of wliiiiii lldiMiiii^ton IiimI «i|H»krn, 
went Htraifflit In the ('ii|iliiiii of the visHrt wiili n ipKHtion. 

" Who jq (lull ylMlM^ lady with fair hair who sitH next but 
CHIC to you af talth*, Caplain?" \\v n«»k«'(1, ( arclt-Hjily. 

The L'nptaiii wa« Imsy, and rt'|di(d with rnrltif««. "OhI 
yon inran Miss Karlnirn, dan^hli't of Matthew Kactitirti, 
ol hnnder; KaclMitn and Millai : jnle." 

" jntr. or I onrsi," said Mr. Mom rirff, drily. Ifc rc« 
rollcrlcd the nanu's or Kaclnnn iV Millar. Tin y had one 
of the largest ]n»e mills in ihr town, and were repnted to 
be Wealthy men. What a delieate, flower like fare Minn 
Kaehurn ha<l I Me had notiied it several times since he 
eante on hoard, Ixit had not hitherto thonght of asking any 
one its owner's n.ime. A sweet, deliiate fa< e ; but Htrotie 
too, with a kind of sipiareness about the white < hin, ami 
(Mmsiilerable br( jMlth of fortdicad. The pretty lip«, inorci 
over, elose*! firmly, and the beautiful blue eyes weie scrl' 
ous rather than gay. There wjih timrnrter aH well an 
beatity in Stella Raeburn's face. 

" 1 suppose, " said MomriefT to liiniself, " that nhe will 
live and die, be married and buried, in I)under." He 
himself had a Htrong dislike to the great manufacturing 
town, a dislike extending, possibly, to the manufacturers. 
•' With that sweet face, she destrveH a better fate than one 
of uninterrupted, conunrmplace, mi(blle class prosperity. 
Yet — what safer and happier fate could I wish for her, 
puor girl I" 

He had no suspicion that he hiinself was dcntined to be 
one of the determining factors in Stella Kneburn'fi fate. 
There seemed at present no point at which her life was 
likely to touch his own. He was to stay a ni|^ht only in 
Dundee ; he had come thither on business, nnd it might lie 
months before he cnnie again. He nnd his family mixed 
little in society, save of the exchisively aristocratic kind. 
He was not at all likely to encounter the Raeburns amongst 
his friends, and his house was nearly two hours' journey 
from Dundee. 

He thought of her as one might think of a lovely picture 
hanging on the wall of a gallery, or over the altar in a 
foreign church : with admiration, with delight, but with no 
wish to possess it, and no especial desire to analyse the 
charm that it held for all-comers as well as for himself. 






11 



. I ] 



ii 



8 tt^H LUCK 01^ THE fiOU^H. 

He forgot her in five minuter. Why should he think of a 
manufacturer's daughter wlioni he had seen, but never 
B][)ukcn to, on board a steamer bound for Dundee ? 



CHAPTER H. 



THORNDANK. 



The golden glow was still resplendent in the West, but 
the light of day was gradually fading, and here and there 
lamps twinkled on the rising banks of the river. 

"We shall land very soon,' said Stella to her compan- 
ion, as they walked up and down the deck, stopping now 
and then to look at the men piling cargo and luggage in 
readiness for disembarkation, or at the vessels that passed 
them by. 

" Very soon," said Hannington. " Don't you think the 
town is rather picturesque, approached in this wayi* 
People say it is like Naples, you know : the houses clus- 
tering down to the water's edge, and the conical hill behind, 
to represent Vesuvius." 

Stella laughed. •• Has Naples those tall factory chim- 
neys ? " she asked. 

•• Ah, the factory chimneys. After all, they are impor- 
tant pans of the landscape ; they give out the smoke that 
hangs in a haze over the town like the cloud from Vesuvius 
itself. Miss Raeburn," said John Hannington, in a 
suddenly differing tone, " may I ask what your arrange- 
ments are ? Dv. you expect any one to meet you ? " 

•• Oh, yes, I expect my Hither," said the girl, with a thrill 
of happy feeling m her voice. "He is sure to come. I 
have not seen him for fpur years." 

" You have been abroad, I think you said the other 
day." 

" 1 nave been at school in Brussels. In the holidays I 
travelled about with Madame Beauvaia and the other girls. 
We went to Switzerland one summer, to Germany another, 



THE LUCK OF rnn ttousp. 



and to Paris. Then in winter, to Italy — Florence, Venice, 
Rome. Oh,"-^ with a oretty smile — " I have seen a great 
deal of the world." 

Hannington smiled too. iJtit he was not going to par- 
sue the suhjert of her travels. 

"And now you arc tc scHle down in Dundee. Your 
father's house is at the Wrst Knd of the town, I believe? 
Vou will he out of the sni(»ke there." 

" Yes, I suppose so. I have not seen it. Papa re- 
m(»vcd to 'f'hornhank when I was away. We had a dear, 
gloomy old house in the Nethergate before." 

" And you will be mistress and (pieen of Thornbank, I 
suppose?" said Mr. flannington, pensively. 

Stella blushed a little. " My aunt lives there. I think 
she is queen of the h(»use. Dear Aunt Jacky I I have not 
seen her either sinre I was sixteen." 

•' Y(m will allow me, perhaps," said her companion, in a 
very formal tone, '* to rail and incpiire how you have borne 
the fatigue of your l«)ng journey from Brussels, and to 
make acquaintance with Miss — Miss Raeburn?" 

'* Miss Raeburn ? Miss Jacquetta Raeburn I " said .Stella 
merrily. " You must remember that she is not Miss Rae- 
burn ; she is Miss Jacquetta ; she is very ])articular about 
the title. I am sure she will be exceedingly pleased ^o see 
you." 

" And you," said Hannington, dropping his voice almost 
to a whisper, " will you be pleased to see me too, Stella? " 

She ."itartcd and moved a step or two away from him. 
They had been standing still for the last few minutes. 
The man followed her closely. He was not going to let 
her escape. 

" Forgive me if I have gone too far," he said. " But 
will you not give me one word of comfort? Will you not 
say that you will be glad to see me too ? " 

There was so much noise about them, so much talking, 
so much shouting of orders, dragging of chains, bumping 
of bales anci boxes, creaking of machinery, that he had to 
approach her very closely to hear the faintly murmured 
**Yes" that fell from Stella's lips. Her slim, ungloved 
hand hung al her side. It was easy in ihe gathering twi- 
light to take it unobserved in his own, and to hold it for a 
minute or two in a very tender clasp." To Stella's simple 
soul, the action seemed like a ceremony of betrothal, 



It> 



rtfK irncA-^ or- viftK mnKstf, 






n 



\Vrt« she \*i*t*y n\iirVly \v;>n ? Slu' h.ut \^\\\>m\ John tlnri- 
n{ngtf>n for Iorr llirtn f<U ftint Ihitiv hn\ns. Hhe hiu! rome 
onbonnl tht» " nvii.intu.t*' with hct IViohil, Mrs. Mnlt, on 
Wednc'RtUy nmrninn m ww o*rlo» k. .tml w wns now Phnru- 
lUy night. Mr. n.\ninnuiot\ Mntl Mis Mu i wiM-e nUt 
rtcqnrtintiinroR, H rtppf^nnMl, ntul hr hml nl onro jUturhed 
himself to thcn\ - or porhitpR it should lu* s.viil tliiit Mrs. 
Mnir \\i\y\ nt otiio tvt(nn<ul hin\ in her srrvire. K.vrr sinre 
thnt Wrilnosdftv morning, ho h.n! hem in th<'ir rotnprtny 
nt every possible inon\rnt. y\tnl the <l;iys .it sea rtr«^ very 
h>ng ! Iwo whoh' mornings, !tnrrm)ons, eviMiings, hml 
lohn Hftnnit\gton s.it nt Slolln Knehnrn'ssitU', wnlke<' with 
net on tleek, whis)>ered sof^ sentenros into hor eiir ntuler 
Ihe shrtile of the sntne grent whiir tnnl>relln ; in tHet, rts 
Mrs. M\nr notei! with ilehght. he hni! ih^hluMiitely liiiil 
himself ont to ivttr.-n t the swret fnrod, serious eyed Stelln, 
And rtppnrently he h.id s\n reedod. 

Stellrt t'.id t\'>t know the menuitig y>>{ the won! flirtation. 
\\<x tvfineme^^t, her thtmghtfulness, hOeil lu r ont of the 
region where 1\ir».^tion or foolishness existed. Sit*' did not 
even ktn>w that Mr. Hinnnngton w.-is p.tying her more nt- 
lention Ihsin was nsnal on so sl\ort t\\\ i\v\\\\{\\\\\,\\\yv. ( >thers 
Wfttvhod, rtmt womlered .it\d ronnnented, hut Sti'lla WMts 
ignotrtnt. She only thottght v.vguely thai Mr. It-nming- 
t^m was " NTry kiml," ;r.Ht hojuni that he wonid eall at 
Thornhank before he left Onmfee. 

Of conrse Mr. Hannii\gton did tn>t live at Pnndee. A 
eommerxial, ship hm'lding, jute weaviim town hnd no 
altr.ietion for hi\n ns a plare of residenre. H\- was a 
London man, a man abotti town, a n\ai^ with a smitll )ni- 
vate fortnne (reeent'y itnpaitx'd l>y gan\ina; losses), ami a 
rep\ttation that was not ijnite flawless, lie was not "a 
had tnan," in the ordinary sense of the w^ord. He wns by 
no means a villain. 1h>t he was selfish, callons, worldly, 
as he had called himself (and as Stella did noi believe 
him) ; he w.as still capable, rd need, of doing a generous 
thing, but he had a keen oye for the main rhanre. ITc 
x.As cleNx?r, and. in sotno people's opinion, handsome, in a 
dark, hard style, which other peo|>le particularly disliked ; 
but by young men ai\d young women, who nre not gcner* 
ally keen physiognomists, he was .nbnired. Stella Rae- 
burn admired hin\ very m\n h, though he shocked her now 
and then by his flippant tnanncv k>^ speech. 



rnK rt/cAT oA ?///? ttot/sK, 



if 



\W. Itml rricndn nt rt grcnl Itrninr in (iir tu'l^ltlMirlinoil of 
l)uiulet»: liord Kmjiiluul's sn oiul sdfi, iNumhl V«'H'kf*i, 
Wrts l»l« UrtMlniliir " piil," \\n lie ('x|»!mI»I(<I I(» MIsh K/h-Imimi, 
niitt ho lunl Ikm'U iiivilcMl In «|»rml m week or hvo ii llir 



Towi'ts (of sniiu' shtjoliiig. I li«- k.'iclMjruH were iin iirnlly 
noHn (III? Town H "riH," ImiI lhiuiiitig(ofi wns iu'VcMIm' 
ioHf) ((('(('riiiiiKMJ (o )Mirf)(i('liisM( (iiinJiilitiK (' willi (lit> ffiMhii 
fjn (ntcr'M (l(iUKlt(<M. H(ell«i KMolnim w«hiM Imvi- inoiicy, 
and tliiMitiiiKloii (onsidiMiMl hinmi'lf poor. 

So he lifltT Ikm liiiiiil, niul site h(oo(I Nil(Mi(, wl(tt down 
vi\H\ cyi'M, iio( ilinwinj^ Ium fingim juvny. lljiiiiiiii|^(on fcl» 
llu'in (Hiivrr in liis hniHl likr m sod, live h\n\. A( (his 
liiuv»MiuMi(, hi' Iniimcif hml a inomciU »»f (tMMlor fcrliii^ ; i( 
was no( very laH(in^, IhK whilo i( laM((Ml i( was rral. Me 
(hoiigh( (o hiinsrK (Itai 9,\w wan a dear \\\[\v ^irl, and (lin( 
he shoidd he very (on«l of her. lie rejec (e<I (he itn(iu(rt 
tion ra«( on iiiin hy his r.ons* ieiue of liein^r m, for(iMie 
htnUer, with disdain. No; he was in hive wi(h 4S(ena. 

rrerently (he H(eamer lay alonj^side (he wharf, and 
(hrongh (he ^adiering darknesn and \\\v llirkerin^, ( lian|4 
inu ligh(R, H(ella wa(( hed anxiously for (he roinin^ of her 
fttlher. Mr. Ilannin^^lon wait hed (fio, fingering his Mark 
incMis(ae.he, and inusinj^ on Ihe md»;("(:( of (l(»wrles and for 
times made in jute, ile wan(e(l (o see Mr. KaelHcn 
bcMore eonuni((ing himself further. R(ella*s friend and 
rhftocron, Mrs. Muir, eatiie tip from (he saloon with many 
cxe.lanmtionR (?f relief at (I.e eonc hision of her voyage. She 
was (he wife of a clergyman in Dundee, and an Knglish- 
woman. 

"Of eotirse (he weadier has lieen lovely, and (he lioa( is 
very eomfor(ahle," she said ; " Imi( yoti < an't settle down 
to anything in two days, and there seems so little to do. 
('onfess, now, Stella darling, haven't you found it a tiny 
bit dull?" 

Stella blushed beatitiftdly, as she answered with a sin< cr 
ity that John Uamiington (hotigh( \v\y sweet, that she had 
not been at all dull not in the very least. 

"Well, I'm very glad of i(," said Mrs. .Muir, glancing ai 
Mr. Hanninglon, " for I am stirc I have not seen mur.h 
of you ; 1 never feel well enoiigii at sea to wilk about and 
enjoy myself like other p( nple. I come this way, yon 
know" — sinking her voice n little "because it's cheaper. 
Stella, there's your dear pnpa. Don't you see his head in 
the crowd over there by the gangway?" 



I« 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



Stella did see, and made an impulsive movement forward, 
which had to be restrained by the talkative Mrs. Muir. 

"My dear child, you had better stay where you arc. 
He can find you more easily ; see, he is making his way 
towards us." And, as she spoke, a tall man, with should^ 
ers slightly bent, and a fringe of white hair about his face, 
made his way towards the little group. Stella could be 
kept back no longer ; she sped to her father like an arrow 
from a bow. Her face seemed transfigured by happiness. 

" What a sweet girl she is I" Mrs. Muir exclaimed. 
Then she drew a long breath. " Ah ! he has kissed her. 
I am glad of that. I was half afraid that he wouldn't !" 

" Not kiss his daughter? " said Mr. Hannington, with an 
uncomprehending accent. 

Mrs. Muir nodded at him. "The Scotch are much more 
reserved in public than the English, Mr. Hannington ; and 
poor dear Stella has lived abroad four years among people 
who are n»re demonstrative than the English. I was half 
afraid that her father would seem cold to her, although I 
know that he k)ves her dearly." 

" He ought to love her," said Hannington, with emphasis. 

Mrs. Muir favored him with a keen look, " You think so 
too, do you ? " she said. " I quite agree with you ; but we 
are impulsive people — English, you know." 

" I am not an impulsive person." 

" Well, perhaps not. And if you are not, you may like 
to hear that Miss Stella is not likely to be absolutely por- 
tionless by and by. She will bring a very handsome tocher, 
as my husband would say, to the man she marries." 

Hannington made no reply. Tf he had been ignorant 
of the fact stated, he might have felt grateful to Mrs, Muir 
for her information ; but as he knew it already, he was a 
little inclined to resent what he called her " fussy interfer- 
ence." He waited silently until Stella and her father ap- 
proached them. Mr. Raeburn spoke to Mrs. Muir, thank- 
ing her for the care of his daughter, and then Mr. Han- 
nington's introduction took place. The manufacturer 
gave the young man a pleasant greeting, and stood for a 
few minutes on deck talking to him ; while Stella, with her 
hand in her father's arm, and a slight, unconscious smile 
on her sweet face, listened to the conversation, and shyly 
thought that she had never seen any one so handsome and 
distinguished-looking as Mr. John Hannington. 



THE LVCK OF THE HOUSE, 



>3 



The young man was not disagreeably impressed by Mr. 
Racburn's manner. It was a little stifT and old-fashioned, 
but not out of keeping with his highly respectable appear- 
ance. The father's eyes were like his daughter's, though 
with more anxiety and less gentleness in their expression. 
The lines of his pale face were rather deeply traced; his 
high wrinkled forehead and hollow cheek showed signs of 
ill-health as well as care and thought. He looked like a 
man who had great responsibilities on his shoulders, and 
whose life was never free from trouble of one sort or an- 
other. He spoke in dry, gentle tones, hesitating now and 
then for a word, with a slight Scotch accent, which even 
Hannington, in his London-bred fastidiousness, found 
characteristic and picturesque. 

" We will be glad to see you. Sir, if you should find your 
way to Thornbank," Mr. Raeburn said courteously to the 
younger man. " Any friend of my daughter's — or of Mrs. 
Muir's either — will aye be welcome. You'll come and take 
your dinner with us one day, maybe, if you are to stay long 
in Dundee, and have the time to spare." 

" I shall be delighted to come," Hannington answered, 
quickly. " Any da}' that suits you. Sir — or that Miss Rae- 
burn likes to fix. You will allow me the pleasure of call- 
ing to-morrow — to inquire after Miss Raeburn — and then, 
perhaps " 

" Any day," said Mr. Raeburn, " just any time you 
please, you will be welcome." He gave a stiff little nod, 
as if to show that the conversation was at an end. " We 
must be moving off, I should think, Stella, my dear. The 
carriage is here to meet us, and your aunt has got a fine tea 
ready for yoi at the other end." 

Stella, with her hand resting on her father's arm, gave a 
gentle little smile to Hannington. There was something of 
regret mingling with the joy of her return home. Was she 
sorry to part with him already ? 

Mrs. Muir's leave-takings were of the effusive kmd. 

" Good-bye, sweet Star of Hope," she said, as she kissed 
Stella. " I shall soon come to see if you are still shining at 
Thornbank as you have shone on board. She has been 
the centre of attraction, Mr. Raeburn, and I am sure we 
are all sorry to part from her." 

" I'm obliged to you for your kindness," said Mr. Rae- 
burn, a little more stiffly than usual. " Good-night to you, 



1: 



;!:; 



14 



THE I.VCK OF THE NoVSE. 



Mrs. Mnir. Come, Stcll.t, sav good-bye to your friendji." 
Stella took her hand from his arm, and gave it first to 
Mrs. Miiir, and then to Mr. I lannington. He held it in his 
owiT for a moment longer than is usual under such circum- 
stances ; and then, as her father's back was turned, and the 
lights around them were but dim, he bowed his head over 
it and raised it to his lips. 

Stella drew it away, coloring violently, and as she did so, 
her eyes met those of a gentleman who must have been a 
spef tator of the scene. It was '• Moncriefl'of T6rre8muir," 
as Hannington, had named him to her ; and the keen, cold 
face was set in lines of a gravity that was almost stern. 
Stella felt as if he had condemned lier for this act of John 
Hannington's, and she was conscious of an emotion of shame 
and distress, quickly succeeded by something very like 
resentment. Vvhat right had this stranger to look at her 
with those critical eyes? Stella's nature was very gentle, 
but she was not without her share of pride, which was a 
little wounded by his gaze. It was not until afterwards 
that she was fully aware of the mingled ])ain and pleasure 
which the touch of Hannington's lips on her little ungloved 
hand had brought to her. 

Meanwhile her flush and gesture of avoidance convinced 
Hannington that he had oflended her, and when he came 
to the carriage-door and handed her to her seat, he put on 
a look of the deepest concern and contrition, with which 
upon his face he said good-bye. Stella sank back on the 
soft cushions of the carriage when he had gone, with 
the feeling that she was in a new and exciting world. For 
a moment she forgot even her father. 

." Yon's a rather oflicious young fellow, I'm thinking/' 
said Mr. Raeburn, drily. 

His daughter sat up, and passed her hand over her 
eyes. " He has been very knid to me, papa," she said 
softly. 

'* Very kind ? Well, I'm glad to hear it. Who is he ? 
A friend of Mrs. Muir's ? " 

* Yes, papa. He is going to Esquhart Towers to-night, 
to stay at the Earl's. Ho is a great friend of Mr. Vereker's." 

** No credit to him," said Mr. Raeburn. «♦ Everyone 
knows that Donald Vereker will take up with the first- 
comer, whoever he may be. Do you know anything more 
of him?" 



! '' 



77//? LVCK OF run //ovsm. 



15 



"Only that he is a friend of Mrs. Muir's." 
«• Ah — well. I dare say we shall see no more of him. 
When he gets amon^ his fine friends at the Towers he 
won't think of us again." 

Stella was silent ; but a little smile crept to the corners 
of her mouth. What did Mr. Hannington care for his 
fine friends, she said to herself, in comparison with her? 
He would certainly come, certainly ; he had said so ; and 
then her father would see how mistaken he had been in 
his estimate of this younjj man — who was not as other 
yount men. But she said nothing, and Mr. Raebii n 

f)resently began to ask her short, dry questions about htr 
ourney and her life abroad, and this sort of conversation 
asted until the carriage swept round the curve of a gra- 
velled drive which led from the road to the door of Mr. 
Raeburn's ne'r residence — Thornbank. 

Stella had not heard much of the house, forne ither her 
father nor her aunt were good letter-writers ; but she had 
gathered from their remarks that it was a fme big place, 
and that it had been " newly furnished." Still, she was 
hardly prepared for the solid magnificence of the mansion 
into which her father now conducted her : the broad stone 
stops, the spacious hall lined with marble figures and 
exotic plants, the big pictures and flaming chandeliers of 
the room in which her aunt met her, struck her with 
astonishment, but not altogether with admiration. She 
had seen too much of really § ^od Art and fine architec- 
ture in her travels to be anything but critical ; and, in 
sj)ite of her wish to like everything in her father's house, 
she felt oppressed by the blaze of light and the glaring 
colors of the furniture. It seemed incongruous, too, to see 
her aunt's old-fashioned little figure hurrying towards her 
between velvet hangings and ormolu stands, and all this 
strange new paraphernalia of wealth. Only when Miss 
Jacky had taken the slim young figure in her arms, and 
was kissing the girl's fresh cheek with a sort of rapturous 
delight, did Stella feel that she was really at home, in spite 
of the cold and bewildering splendor of the house. 

Miss Jacquetta Raeburn was a very little woman. Her 
head did not reach to Stella's shoulder, as Stella was rather 
surprised to find — for the girl had grown during her four 
years' absence from home — but what she lacked in stature 
ahe mad« up for in dignity of a vivacious and energetic 



Iff 



Id 



The Wcfc OP THE novan. 



kintl. Slu* wns by \\x^ inofins an insignifinuu I«>okiiitf |»er- 
son, f«)r nil \\v\ shortnt'ss olligun'. She was dri'ssiMi in d 
M;irk broi-.uh'of M'vy atuii'ni inMki*, l)\il slifT.tntl ti( h l»H>k- 
ing ; (UTi it, howf vtM, she h.ul tird n hhu* hil) and iiuron, 
with rather an odil effert. On her head was perrhed a 
very high rap, adorned with ntany spikes of green grass, 
vipright feathers, artifti ial llowers and iridescent beads, 
Rtieh an erection as had never been seen on the head of 
mortal wotnan before, and was the pride of Miss Jacquetla's 
heart. 

•' Kh, my bonny wmnan ! " she rried, with a little shriek 
of delight, "and it's you that are ba»:k again, after all 
this weary while. And tne and your papa have just been 
wearying for a sight of you ! And you must be ipjite 
done out with your journey, 1 should think, and will want 
your tea sadly ! " 

•' No, Aunt Jaeky, 1 don't know that I do," said Stella, 
laughing a little, and stooping to kiss the delicate, wrinkled 
face. " lUit when 1 sit down 1 daresay 1 shall find an 
appetite." 

" \\\\ sttre t hope so, my dear. I've been trying all 
day to mind what you used to like, and I think you'll find 
Rometliing to your taste. Now come away upstairs and 
lay by your boni^et. What a deal there is to show you and 
tell you about, to be sure 1 Did you ever see such a fine 
house as this, Stella ? And your own little room— well, 
just come away with me, and I'll show you what your 
pjipa's done for you." 

She led the girl hurriedly across the hall and up the 
bn>ad, well-carpeted, illuminated staircase, refusing the 
attentions of one or two of the servants who stepped for- 
ward to oflfer assistance on the way. •' Not now, John ; 
just you go downstairs again, Mary \ I will show the 
voung mistress to her own chamber myself, if vou please. 
Vou'd never believe the thought your papa has taken to have 
everything just so before you came home, my dear* 
But it's not me that would deny him his way, as you know, 
and everyone of us in the house is as glad to see you as 
himself. And now, look here." 

Miss Jacky had preceded Stella for the last few minutes, 
and now threw' open the door of a room, in which she evi- 
dently took great pride. And indeed it was a charming 
little nest. White and pink were the colors that prodomi- 



;i 



THP. I.VCk 'Off trtP. tfOVSH, 



•f 



imlefl ; tin- mirrors wt-rt* frjitnrd in silver, tlir fnilrt rpf|ill- 
jiitrs wi-rt- in ivc>rv .md silvpr ; \\\v silki'fi lifdtjiiilt and 
curtains wrre e-d^rd willi d« licntr Inre. A wliitr tug lay 
before the fcndri, mmiI n siiudllMit rhf-rrv woodfiro biirned 
in the graff. Kvidtiitly ^ood taste hnd ijrcsidrd (»ver the 
choire of every nrtiilc, jhhI Stell s whs the more gratiried 
rttnl stfrprised hn ause the rest of the Ihmis*-, with all lt» 
gorgeotifltiefls, had not ph-ased tier very i?m< li. 

"There's a parlor opening ont of it," added Miss jneky, 
with infinite delight, "so that yon (an just slip away up 
here when you're tired of ns old folk, Stella, my dear. And 
I lu)pe it'll Im" to yonr faney." 

'• It is lov<ly t is eharming !" rried the girl, with a 
bli;4ht Ihinh of eolor on her delieat** fa»e. " \ never saw a 
ronm half so pretty ! flow good of papa to get it all done 
»o beautifully." 

" lie did n«)t hold his hand, certainly," said Miss Jaeky. 
" He had people from l,ondon to see afiotit this room ; the 
folk here weren't good enough for him, though they did 
the rest of the house. I'm just hofiing that yoti'll tell vonr 
|Kipa, Stella, that you are pleased, for he's made a sight f»f 
work aboiit this place, I can tell you, and it was easy to 
see that you didnrt care so much about the public rooms 
below as he would have liked yoii to do." 

" Oh, dear Aimt Jacky," said Stella, a little stimg by the 
implied rebuke, "f never, never said a word. 1 only 
thought they looked — very— grand." 

" They're not much to my taste," said A unt Jacky, grimly. 
"A ddaf too much gildiiig and velvet abr)Ut them for me. 
But ypur papa likes them ; and surely I think he's gone 
clean daft over this house and its furniture. He's for 
throwing good money right and left as if it were but dirt. 
And it's 'Would the child like th;^ ?' or 'Would she have 
the other ?' till I've been fair dazed at the sound of your 
name. Not but what it's a sight for sair een to see you 
standing there, my bonnie lassie." 

Stella was slowly pulling ofT her gloves and laying her 
hat upon the bed. She did not speak for a minute or two. 

"It's very beautiful, it's all very grand," she said. "I 
will certainly tell dear papa how grateful f am to him for 
this dear little room." Then, after another pause, .she said, 
with a rather puzzled look, and in a hesitating voic«, "In 
papa's letters to mc, he kept saying that he was so poor. 
1 — I did not expect anything like this," 2 



i9 



TME I.VCK or THE ffO(/SE, 



|1 



*' It <l(H*sn't look as if he wore poor, docs i(, my l»a»'n? A 
ye.ir or two ago he was anxious enough, I kn( w. And 
then his sadness of heart seemed to leave him all at once, 
and he began to talk of this new house, and sint e then he's 
spent just an awful deal of money — so it will have been 
only a passing ( loud, you see." Hut, in spite of these 
cheerful assuranees, Miss Jarky's face wore a cloud of 
anxiety and almost of fear, which Stella was quick to in- 
terpret. 

" Don't you think he is well, then, Aunt Jacky ?'* she 
asked. 

" He says that he's well, my lamb," said Aunt Jacky, 
•* and she would be a bold woman that would contradict 
him. And so far that's a good sign. For it's only when 
a man's near death that he lets himself be contradicted 
without tlying into a rage." 



CHAPTER HI. 



THE FIRST DAY. 



Steixa's vague dissatisfaction with the state of aflfairs 
in the new home, which she had scarcely yet learned to 
call her own, did not survive a glimpse of the sunlight 
which greeted her next morning in her lovely little room. 
vShc lay awake for a few minutes watching the beams 
which wandered through the Venetian blinds, and rested 
here and there upon the pretty things which, as she fondly 
remembered, her father himself had bought for her ; and 
then, with a sudden wish to see what lay outside the 
house, she got up and pulled aside the blinds. Her room 
was situated at an angle of the house, and she had win- 
dows on two sides. From one she looked out upon a gar- 
den which sloped down a gentle descent, at the foot ol 
which — broad and glorious — rolled the great river Tay, 
its bosom brilliant in the morning light. Stella looked 
acrgss tQ the Newport side, and thought of some of her 



7//A I.VCK Of^ THE HOUSE. 



»9 



old friends who lived there ; then she glanred at the grent 
rtirve of the wonderful lay Bridge, nnd uttered a little 
smothered rry at the sight of that yawning gap whirh had 
not then been filled up. The great 'lay Hridge disaster 
had occurred when Stella was at school, and she had noi 
seen even a photograph of the river since the Ifridge went 
down. It gave her — as it has given to many people when 
they beheld it In its ruin — a stidden awe stricken sense of 
tragedy ; it seemed to her as if the broken-down arches 
and solitary piers must always induce strange recollections 
of the sadness and mystery of life whenever they met the 
eye. She w.is not old enough to know how easily the 
mind of man recoils from <'ontem|»lation of disaster ; and 
she would have been surjjriRcd indeed hati she been told 
that in a very short time she would be far too much ab- 
sorbed in the conduct of her own affairs to think (as she 
dkl at first), every time she glanced at the bridge, of the 
stormy night, the roaring wind, the rush of a train over 
the rocking arches, and the sudden plunge into the dark 
water below. She stood at the window and thought v^xy 
seriously that she would take the sight of the broken 
bridge for a warning to herself; and that whenever she 
was over-confident or impatient, or inclined to grumble, 
she would remember how easily all earthly happiness 
might fall to pieces beneath the Hand of One mightier 
than herself — the Hand of God. 

" I do not think that I shall ever be discontented when 
I bok at that bridge," she said, as she glanced at the glit- 
tering expanse of water, the cloudless sky, the pale, purple 
hills that seemed to die away in mist on the other side of 
the water. " I shall remember how easily it might have 
happened that my dear father or some of my friends had 
been in that train, and that I might have been made an 
orphan I There are many other ways, too, in which one's 
happiness may be wrecked. There must be trouble in 
store for every one ; and I have had so little hitherto that 
I suppose it is all to come ! — God grant that I may bear it 
patiently I At the beginning of this new life of mine — 
for everything seems new to mc here — I will ask Him to 
bless it and to bless me ; so that I may be a blessing and 
a help to others, and may not live for myself alone ! " 

And thus reflecting, she slipped down on her knees be- 
side the window and uttered a few v/ords of fervent 



THE LVtK OF THE HOUSE, 



prayer, that she might be guided and guarded in the home- 
life upon which she had now entered. There could not 
have been a better preparation for the chances and 
changes of Stella Raeburn's life. 

She dressed and went downstairs. She hid time for a 
little ramble in the garden before her aunt and her father 
made their appearance, and she came in elo(iuent about 
Ihe sweet, fresh air, the beauty of the view, and the size of 
Ihe garden. Her father listened with a dawning pleasure 
in his weary eyes. 

" So you weren't sorry to come back to old Scotland 
after all ?" he said, as he fini.shed his saucer of porridge, and 
pulled towards him the cup of tea that Miss Jacky had 
poured out. 

" Papa ! How could I be sorry when I love it with all 
my heart ? You have no idea how I used to long to hear 
a Scottish tongue ! I thoup;ht I should die of home-sickness 
for the first year that 1 was away." 

"Ye didn't mention that in your letters," said Miss 
Jacky. 

" Oh ! no, because I knew that it would have been foolish 
when papa wanted me to learn as much as I could, and 
not to com" home until I had done with school. But it is 
delightful to feel oneself in one's own country." 

" I am glad to hear you say so," said her father. " I 
was half afraid you'd come back half a foreigner, and not 
a sensible Scottish lassie after all. You've not forgotten 
how to sup your porridge, any way." 

" I should think not ! " said Stella, brightly. " I enjoy 
it more than anything — especially with this beautiful cream. 
I think I shall enjoy everything in Scotland." 

"Well, make the most of your enjoyment," said Mr. 
Raeburn, spaking a little drily as he rose from his chair. 
" It's as well, may be, that you can find your pleasure in 
such little things ; there's no knowing how long you may 
have bigger ones to enjoy." 

He went out of the room rather quickly, and Stella, 
laying down her spoon, looked with a puzzled face towards 
her aunt for explanation. " He did not seem quite pleased," 
fthe said. " Did I say anything that he did not like, 
auntie?" 

" Nothing that he need mislike, my bairn. It's just this : 
he's got a notion that we don't appreciate all that he's done 



THE LUCK Ofi TUB HOVSB, 



at 



for us, in building this fine house up at the West End — 
which, in my opinion, is just ridiculous ; and he seems 
whiles to wish that we should not like anything but what's 
cost money ; so that though he himself still sups the por- 
ridge and likes them as well as ever, he'd have been better 
pleased, my dear, if ye'd turned up your nose at it and 
asked for some patty dc toy grasse, or whatever they call 
it, or some of that fine raised pie with truffles and spices 
and what not. It's just the nature of the man, that's all." 

" I see ; I will try to please him," said Stella, with rather 
a troubled laugh. ♦' But my tastes are all quite simple, I 
believe ; I like cold mutton and rice-puddings ; so what 
am I to do ?" 

" Ye'll just have to do what other women spend their 
lives in do'xng— pretend" said Miss Jacky. "We're all 
weak creatures, my dear ; but I'd sooner be a woman than 
a man, because I'd sooner deceive than be deceived." 

" Oh, Aunt Jacky, you don't mean what you say !" 

" Indeed and I do, my dear. Why, I'm pretending and 
deceiving all day long. I'm always pretending that I like 
this big house, and I don't ; I'm pretending that I like to 
be waited on, which is just my parteecular abomination ; 
and I deceive my brother all day long — for his soul's good, 
my bairn, all for his soul's good. And I've no doubt but 
that in the Last Day, allowance will be made for my 
situation." 

Stella was rather appalled by this revelation of duplicity; 
but while she was still thinking it over, her father reap- 
peared. He seemed in better humor now, and looked at 
her with a faint smile on his grey face. 

" I'm going down to the mill," he said. " I shall take 
the next car that passes. What's the right time, Stella ? 
Have yow a watch ?" 

" Oh, yes, papa dear ; you gave it me yourself just before 
I went to Brussels. It keeps very good time. Half-past 
nine ; that is right, is it not ? " 

" A trumpery thing ! " said Mr. Raeburn, taking the 
little silver watch from her hand, and turning it over dis- 
dainfully. " I'll give you a betr.er one than that, Stella. It's 
not suitable for your position i^ow." 

" Papa, I am sure I don't want anything better." She 
had forgotten her aunt's recommendations, until Miss Jacky 
trod violently upon her toes under the table ; and then, 



u 



THE LVCk OF THE UOUS£:. 



blushing and starting, she resumed, " I am very much 
obliged to you, indeed. Hi.t really it is not necessary — 
this watch goes beautifully " 

" Pooh, nonsense!" said Mr. Raeburn, still good-humor- 
edly. ** You must have a new one now ; something like 
what MisB Raeburn of Thornbank ought to have. You give 
me your old watch ; I'll see what I can get it changed 
for » 

" Oh, not the dear old watch that you gave me, dear 
papa ! I want to keep it always — for your sake." 

•' She can lay it past with her dolls and her primers," 
interposed Miss Jacky, pacifically. " It is just a little 
girl's watch ; there's no mistake about that, Stella, and you 
should hare a better one, now that ye're a young lady. So 
you go away down to town, Matthew, and get the watch 
(or her if you like ; but ye're no wanting to deprive the 
poor bairn of her playthings, which is but natural ihat she 
should have a regard for ? " 

" Well, well," said Mr. Raeburn, letting Stella slip her 
watch back into her pocket, " as you please. There's no 
need to exchange it ; I can afford two watches, I should 
liiink, or half a dozen, if I please. A half-hunter, Stella, 
with your initials in brilliants on the back — what do you 
iliink of that now ? " 

Stella was saved from what was to her the painful neces- 
sity of replying, by the apparition of a solemn man-servant 
at the door. He had come to announce the approach of 
the tram-car, for it was one of Mr. Raeburn *s peculiarities 
that he would never take his own carriage and horses out 
in a morning to convey him to the mill ; he preferred the 
public car. 

Mr. Raeburn went into the hall, but turned back onco 
more before leaving the house. 

" Is that young man — that lad that I saw on the boat-r- 
coming to-day, Stella ? " 

" I don't know, papa." 

" Well, if he comes, you can be civil to him, but n .. oo 
civil. I must make inquiries about him before he j ( s «.n 
any intimate footing in this house. Of course, if I c was 
kind to you, and you like to pay him the compi.ment o( 
askin'T; him to eat his dinner with us some evening, you 
may ; but don't you get so friendly, Miss Stella, with every 
long-legged lad you come across. Miss Raeburn must 
remember herj)osition." 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



«3 



" I am sure I have never been particularly friendly with 
any one, papa," said Stella, with flaming cheeks. 

*' Well, may be no. But mind what I say." 

" I dare say he will not come at all, papa." 

" All the better," said Mr. Racburn. " I don't want too 
many of his sort round the house. There's no reason why 
you shouldn't marry a title, Stella, if you manage well. 
' My lady ' would suit her fine ; don't you think so, Jacky ?" 

" I think," said Miss Jacky, with scveriiy, " that you're 
a bigger fool than ever I took ye for, brother, and that is 
saying a good deal. And ye'll have lost your tram, more- 
over." And as Mr. Raeburn hurried out of the room, she 
subjoined in a tone of peculiar acidity, " Why the Almighty 
created men with so little sense, is what I've tried all my 
life to find out, and n^ver yet succeeded. They go crowing 
round like cockerels on a fence, the whole clamjamfry of 
them, and no one ever knows what it's ah t." 

Stella laughed, in spite of her vexation. 

" And who's the young man that he means, my dear ? 
Somebody that came in the boat with you from London ? 
How did you get acquainted with him ? " And then, by a 
series of questions, Miss Jacky won from the girl a recital 
of the events of her two days' voyage under Mrs. Muir's 
sheltering wing ; a recital from which Stella carefully 
omitted all that was particularly interesting to herself, more 
out of shyness than from any wish to conceal the truth. 
Miss Jacky listened with her head on one side, and her 
eyes slanted towards the speaker, with something of the 
aspect of a serious cockatoo ; but after all Stella's story did 
not impress her very much. Mr, Raeburn 's inopportune 
warnings had led her to expect much more. 

" Bless us," she said, " what's the good man fashing him- 
self for, I wonder ? The young gentleman couldn't do less 
than make himself agreeable ; and to my mind it was no 
wonder if he was a little bit attracted by somebody's bonnie 
face — not but what beauty's only skin-deep," added Miss 
Jacky, hastily, for Stella's moral edification, " and there's 
no accounting for young men's tastes. Providentially, we 
haven't got to account ij)r them ; and so " — with a convic- 
tion that she was showmg great conversational tact and 
finesse — " let us not try to do anything of the kind, but just 
come out with me into the garden, and then we'll look at 
your frocks, and get on with our day's work." What the 



r 



24 



THE LUCK 01^ THE HOUSE. 



i . I 



I ! 



day's work was, it would have been hard for Aunt Jacky to 
define. 

Stella was glad to quit the subject, and did obediently 
and joyously all that was required of her. She and her aunt 
lunched at home, under the eye of a solemn butler and a 
couple of footmen, who made Miss Jacky evidently so 
nervous that Stella was emboldened to propose a new 
departure on future occasions. " Don't you think. Aunt 
Jacky," she said, " that it would be more comfortable to 
have lunch in the little ante-room opening out of this big 
dining-room, and only one of the maids to wait on us ? " 
She said this when the servants had at last departed from 
the room. 

" Your father wouldn't like it, my dear. It would be much 
more comfortable, no doubt ; but I am sure that he would 
say that it wouldn't be living up to our position. I daren't 
propose it, Stella." 

" Oh dear, oh dear, what is our position ?" cried Stella, 
a little dolefully, and then laughed at herselffoi asking the 
question. 

Her heart was beginning to beat a little more quickly as 
the afternoon advanced. Would Mr. Hannington come, 
or would he not ? She had gently to combat her aunt's pro- 
position that they should go into the town together, do 
some shopping, and pay some calls. 

" People should call on me first, yon know, auntie,' 
said Miss Stella, with an immense assumption of dignity. 
" I suppose they knew that I wa« coming home ?" 

" Hoity-toity, set her up ! As if folk would call iox you" 
said Aunt Jacky, with much scorn. " A wee bit lassie 
like you to expect people to call for her. " 

But, as both dignity and scorn were mere imitations of 
the real article, aunt and niece immediately laughed at each 
Other, and sat down contentedly for a long chat. 

Before the afternoon ended, however. Miss Jacky came 
to the conclusion that Stella had not been mistaken. People 
seemeu to see things in the same light as she did, and 
called to ask after her. Mrs. Lyndsay, who lived in an- 
other great house in the Perth ELoad, came with her two 
daughters ; and old Mrs. Balsilly, who had been the bosom 
friend of Stella's grandmother, dropped in and stayed for 
an hour. Aunt Jacky had never been loath to drink a 
surreptitious cup of tea at any hour of the day or night ; 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



25 



and she was only too glad to bustle about and order the 
servants, with great accession of digaity, to bring in after- 
noon tea soon after three o'clock. So that, when Mr. 
Hannington did make his appearance, in his leisurely Lon- 
don way, a little before the stroke of five, the teapot was 
cold, the cups and saucers stood here and there, and the 
room had the distracted appearance of one in which some 
half-dozen people had been moving and talking and drink- 
ing tea nearly all the afternoon. 

Miss Jacky was inclined to apologize for the disorder, 
but Stella was not at all sorry for it. Looking at the room 
through Hannington's eyes, she again became conscious 
of its gorgeous ugliness. There was too much of every- 
thing, too much gilding, too much marble, too much satin 
brocade, too many exotic flowers. The whole thing was 
overdone. To Stella the only really pleasing parts of the 
room were the grand piano, recently ordered for her from 
Germany, and the broad plate-glass windows, with their 
magnificent view of the Tay. She was glad that Hanning- 
ton commented at once on the grand sweep of the river 
between its picturesque hills and wooded banks, and turned 
his back on the flaunting splendor of the Thornbank 
drawing-room. 

The call was short and rather formal ; but it ended in an 
invitation Id dinner, which Miss Jacky was as proud to be 
able to give as Mr. Hannington was pleased to accept. In 
two days he was to come, and then, as he gracefully 
expressed it, he ^vould have the pleasure of making further 
acquaintance with Mr. Raeburn. Not with Stella ; oh dear 
no ! 

Miss Jacky must be held responsible for a good deal. 
She had been exceedingly pleased when Mrs. Lyndsay had 
called, for the Lyndsays were great people in the commer- 
cial world ; and she could not help letting out her plea- 
sure with a certain arrangement in which Stella had been 
concerned,, 

" So kind of them, you know, Mr. Hannington," she 
sa^d, simply, while Stella blushed hotly and wished that 
she Gould lay her finger over her aunt's mouth. " For 
I'm sure I said to myself, what's yoxv''—yon meant Stella, 
m this case—" but a poor, wee lassie that's just come 
home from school, and must wait awhile before she makes 
friends with her neebours ! Wait awhile ? Not she ! She 



»6 



{THE LUCK OF THE HO US P. 



hadn't been home a day before Mrs. Lyndsay and her two 
girlies came to call for her." 

" To go out with them ?" said Hannington, who did not 
quite understand. 

Miss Jacky did not see where he had misunderstood 
her. She did not remember at the moment that the South- 
erner says " call on " where the Northerner says ** call 
for," and she wondered a little at the drift of his question. 

" Not to-day," she said ; " they just called for her to-day 
out of pure friendliness, so to speak ; but to-morrow she is 
to go out with them for the afternoon if it is a fine day, 
because Stell. says that she has never seen Balmerino, Mr. 
Hannington ; and they are to make a party and drive her 
over ; because you know Balmerino is a place that ought 
to be seen." 

'Is it really ? " said the young man, with great apparent 
earnesmess. " I ought to go myself, ought I not ? I must 
get Donald Vereker to take me. I have often heard of the 
place, and meant to see it." 

•* Ay, and so should you," Miss Jacky assented, "and 
if Mr. Vereker of the Castle goes with you, you'll want no 
other introduction ; but, as a rule, the keys are kept at the 
farm-house, and the goodman does not trust them into 
everybody's hands. I hope you'll have a fine aftenioon 
to-morrow, Stella, my dear." 

*' I hope so, too," said Hannington, looking at her. 
Her eyes were downcast, there was the loveliest flush on 
her delicate cheeks. Hannington smiled. " Did she tell 
her aunt to let me know ? " he said to himself. " Women 
do these things sometimes. She is not very skilful at 
setting traps as yet, poor little thing. I won't fail her, 
however ; I will be at Balmerino to-morrow, too 1 " 

Th^ resolution showed how little he understood the 
motives that actuated Stella Raeburn. 



CHAPTER IV. 



THE SECOND DAY. 



Mr. RAeburn came home to his six o'clock dinner 
with the ioveliest little watch in his pocket that Stella 
had ever beheld. He did not produce it until dessert was 



THE LVCK OF THE HOUSE, 



vt 



on the table, and then he brought it out in its dainty 
Morocco case with great form and ceremony, and handed 
it to Stella on a dish, as if it had been something good to 
eat. 

" There, young lady ! " he said. " There's a watch that 
is worth looking at. Don't let me see that trumpery silver 
affair any more. It annoys me that you should wear a 
shoddy thing like that when I can afford you as good a 
one as any lady in the land." 

" Dear papa, you are so kind," cried Stella. She could 
not resist the impulse to fly lo his side and kiss him, 
although she noticed that he seemed a little taken aback 
by her effusive display of affection. " I shall always wear 
this one, but I shall keep the other too, and I shall be just 
as fond of it in my own heart, because you gave it to me." 

" There, there ! " said Mr. Raeburn. " You haven't 
looked at it yet. Sit down, my dear. I chose that because 
of the device on the bacV , It's just a wee bit fanciful, I'll 
grant ; but girls don't dislike a thing on that account." 

The device was that of a star in brilliants, with a rather 
large diamond in the centre. Stella and her aunt admired 
it extremely ; but another surprise was still in store for 
them. Mr. Raeburn watched them silently, the worn, 
haggard look coming back to his face as he sr t back in his 
chair and listened 4o their comments. Presently b/ smiled 
and produced two more cases, at which Stella gazed in 
surprise and Miss Jacky in consternation. 

" Can't give one thing to you and nothing to your aunt, 
can I ?" he said, appealing to Stella. " Hand that over to 
her, my dear. Something for you to wear at the next big 
dinner-party we go to, Jacky. And thafs for you, my 
girl, and the more of that sort you get the better." 

Aunt Jacky's present was a diamond brooch ; Stella's a 
gold bracelet studded with diamond stars. The girl's 
thanks were warm and hearty ; but she felt a little 
oppressed by the very magnificence of the gift. She had 
sense enough to know that so young a girl as herself ought 
not to wear diamonds, but she feared to wound her father's 
feelings by saying so. She slipped the bracelet on her 
fair, round arm, therefore, and gave herself up to a girlish 
pleasure in the flashing of the jewels in the lamplight. 
Miss Jacky looked less pleased than she did. 

" They must have cost a great deal, Matthew," she said, 
after a rather awkward pause. 



r 



» i 



I'' 



tS 



77//? t.VCK OF THE ffOUSE, 



" And what if they did ? Don't you suppose t can 
afToril it?" said Mr. Raol)urn, frowning at her angrily. 
'* 1 can l)uy up any Ountlcc merchant twice over, I tell 
you ; I'm a millionaire — a billionaire, if you like — and 
trade's going up. I mean to be as rich as Rothschild one 
of these days. There's no limit — no limit — to which I 
cannot aspire and — attain. We'll make our Stella a prin- 
cess yet. There's an old story about a Princess Fair-Star 
in some silly book ; we'll make our Princess Fair-Star a 
millionaire. That'll be a new ending for a fairy tale." 

He laughed harshly and rose from the table, regardless 
of the fact that the ladies had not made a move. Miss 
Jacky watched him darkly as he left the room. She could 
not understand the changes of his moods. He behaved 
as if he had been drinking. And yet — she had not noticed 
that he took a larger quantity of wine than usual at dinner. 
There was something about him that made her very 
anxious now and then. 

She turned to Stella ; but Stella, though rather puzzled, 
had not sufficient experience either of her father or of the 
world at large to be alarmed. She was anything but 
critical by nature ; and her father had shown himself 
loving and kind to her. That was sufficient to blind her 
eyes to his defects. 

Besides, Stella had her own affairs to think about. 
Some instinct told Iter that Mr. Hannington intended to 
be at Balmerino on the following afternoon ; he had not 
said so, but he had looked his intention, and Stella had 
understood. She was half charmed, half frightened at the 
prospect. He had no business to go to the fine old ruin 
just for the sake of meeting her, and yet — if he chose to 
go, who could prevent him ? She certainly could not. 
And then her thoughts resolved themselves into an intense 
anxiety about the weather. She sat at the delightful 
Bluthner Grand for a great part of the evening, singing and 
playing Scottish airs for her father and her aunt ; but her 
heart was not altogether in her music. It had flown far 
away from the present into a golden dream of future love 
and happiness. 

The next day was cloudlessly fine. Mrs. Lyndsay and 
her girls — two rosy, merry lasses, who had a boundless 
admiration for their old friend Stella, with whom they used 
to go to school before she left Dundee for Brussels — 



^ THE LUCK OF THE IfOUSR, ig 

callcfl at Thornb.ink at hairpast one, and drove with her 
to the stc. Tier, in whi( h the whole party— horses and c ar- 
riagc inc hided -would be trniisj)orted from i?imdcc to the 
Kingdom of Kife. At Newport they would get into ihc 
carriage again, nnd be driven Westward to the fine old 
Abbey ruin at ]ialmerino. 

Stella was delighted with every one of her experiences. 
She scarcely remembered crossing the 'lay in her childish 
days, and as she walked up and down the deck with her 
companions, Katie and Isabel l,yndsay, she rejoiced like 
a child in the motion of the vessel, the liglit, clear air about 
her, the sight of the dancing waves through whi< h the 
boat ploughed its way. The ])retty villas and waving 
green trees of the village on the other side excited her 
highest admiration. " I should like to live there much 
[better than in l^undee I " she ( ried. " How lovely every- 
fthing is ; how clear and bright 1 " 

•• I'm awfully glad you like it so much," said Isabel 
Lyndsay. "We thought that you would perhaps be 
spoiled for Scotland by living so long in another country." 

" Spoiled for my own native land ! Oh, never I " Stella 
cried. " Wherever I went I always sang, ' Hame, hame, 
fain wad I be I ' I hope that I shall never leave Scotland 
any more." 

" But supi)ose you wanted to marry an Englishman ? " 
said Katie. "Like Isa, you know; she is engaged to a 
gentleman from London. What would you do then ? " 

Katie was only a child compared with Stella and Isabel, 
these two young ladies considered, therefore perhaps she 
did not notice Stella's sudden guilty blush, and the little 
involuntary pressure that she gave to Isa's arm, through 
which her hand was passed. But Isa noticed both, and 
constructed a romance upon the spot. 

Newi)ort Pier was reached at length, and the drive to 
Balmerino began. It was a very pleasant drive, but 
Stella found afterwards that she did not remember much 
about it. She was hardly conscious of what she said or 
did, until her feet were firmly planted on the green slopes 
on which the ruined abbey walls are set, and found herself 
suddenly face to face with Mr. John Hannington and a 
friend. And then she felt illogically ashamed of herself for 
having expected to meet him there. 

Although she did not know it, she had seldom made a 



dp 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



prettier picture than when John Hannington encountered 
her. She was standing outside an j.rched door, which led 
into one of the few remaining chambers of the building. 
The solid masonry was almost hidden by the clustering ivy 
Which had fastened on the stones for generations past ; the I 
long trails, on which the sunlight glinted, fell loosely over ' 
the wide opening, where the sombre darkness of the interior 
formed an excellent background for Stella's slender figure 
clad in white and green. The grey fragments of stone, the 
ruined walls, the broken window arches, half veiled in ivy, 
by which she stood, would have served excellently for an 
example of youth and age — warm, loving youth, alive and 
beautiful ; age, dull, grey, solemn and cold. Such was the 
comparison John Hannington drew — and it must be added 
that he congratulated himself on his own acuteness in se- 
curing the affection of a girl who was handsome as well as 
rich. A beauty and an heiress ! He was in luck. 

Stella performed her part of introducing him to the 
Lyndsays with a quiet, shy grace which Hannington heart- 
ily approved. He in his turn asked permission to introduce 
Mr. Donald Vereker, and as that young man was one oi 
Lord Esquhart's sons, his welcome by Mrs. Lyndsay was 
assured. Katie was charmed to find that this fair-haired, 
blue-eyed young fellow was what she called " very jolly," 
and while she and her mother monopolized him, Isa, who 
was of a sentimental turn, devoted herself to securing a few 
tninutes undisturbed to her friend Stella and Stella's lover. 

For of course he was Stella's lover ; she was sure of that 
by the look in Stella's pretty eyes. So she led them away 
from Mrs. Lyndsay and Mr. Vereker, and when they had 
entered the half-lighted cavern which had once done duty 
for refectory or kitchen, she slipped quietly away, and 
Hannington was at liberty to say what he chose. 

He had already given Stella his hand, because the floor 
was very uneven, and he knew by its tremor that he could 
go a little farther still. " Come this way and look at the 
window in the wall," he said, leading her deeper mto the 
darkness of the ruined building. " You are not angry with 
me for coming here to-day ? You are not sorry to see me, 
Stella ? " His arm' was round her waist. 

" Oh, please " Stella began, but she was not allowed 

to proceed. « „ , 

" I could not keep away. I love you, Stella— do you 



•-.iSfl 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



SI 



3n encountered 
joor, which led 
)f the building, 
le clustering ivy 
ations past ; the 
fell loosely over 
5S of the interior 
s slender figure 
nts of stone, the 
alf veiled in ivy, 
tcellently for an 
youth, alive and 
I. Such was the 
it must be added 
acuteness in se- 
dsome as well as 
s in luck, 
cing him to the 
[annington heart- 
sion to introduce 
[ man was one o1 
[rs. Lyndsay was 
t this fair-haired, 
led " very jolly," 
:ed him, Isa, who 
to securing a few 
ind Stella's lover, 
e was sure of that 
tie led them away 
id when they had 
i once done duty 
uietly away, and| 
; chose. 

because the floor 
nor that he could 
y and look at the 
;r deeper into the 
ire not angry with 
,t sorry to see me, 

was not allowed 



not know that? Do you not love me a little in return? 
Stella, will you not tell me that you love me ? " 

" It is so scon," she murmured, but her head was on his 
shoulder, and he knew that he might have his way. 

" Not a bit of it. The moment I set eyes upon you in 
(the Britannia I said to myself— that is the woman I shoulcj 
like to have for a wife. That is how all true love begins, 
my little darling." 

" Oh, no." She nestled a little closer in his arms, how- 
ever, as she contradicted him. " Not always." 
" Yours did not begin so soon, dear ? " 
" No." 

" But it is as strong now as if— as if it haa begun with 
mine ? " 

*' Oh, yes," she answered, eagerly, almost unaware how 

[much she acknowledged by those words. And then she 

felt herself drawn close, and kissed as she had never been 

:issed before — on brow, eyelids, cheeks, and mouth — hotly 

md passionately, and as if his kisses would never end. 

>he felt her face tingle, and tried to draw herself away, but 

|he would not let her go. For. after his own fashion, Han- 

[nington was a little in love with Stella, and his love-making, 

[whether genuine or not, had never failed for want of ardor. 

iHer soft, fair face and sweet young lips had always appeared 

to him eminently kissable. But it did not at all follow that 

his fancy for her was of a purifying or enduring kind ; for 

|a man can only act and feel according to the laws of his 

)ein^, and even his love will not ennoble him if he has not 

rithm him the root of something noble. John Hannington 

ras not without his good points ; but he was further below 

the level of a girl like Stella Raeburn than Stella herself 

^ould have imagined. 

" We must not stay here ; they are calling us," she mur- 

mred at last. Katie's clear voice was re-echoing through 

le low arches and along the broken walls. " Stella 1 

Jtella ! where are you ! " 

" One kiss, my darling," Hannington whispered. " You 
lave not kissed me yet.„ 

Stella lifted her face in the darkness, and pressed her 

loft lips to his cheek. It was a very sober little kiss : 

)ut she felt it to be a vow of everlasting fidelity. To the 

lan who won that kiss she gave her heart and life. 

" Now, then, we will go," said Hannington. " Stella, 



Stella— do you ■dearest, you love me, do you not ? " 



f 



3a 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



"Yes." 

"Say 'Yes, John.'" 

" Yes, John," she answered, very sweetly. 

** Then, darling, don't say anything about this to any 
one until I have seen you again. I want to consult you 
first, before I speak to your father. He will grudge you 
to me, I am sure, my beautiful one ! Will you promise 
me to be silent? 1 dine at your house to-morrow, and 
then we will see." 

" As you like, John," she said submissively. It was 
rather a trial to her to think of meeting Aunt Jacky's 
tenderly inquisitive gaze without immediately responding 
to it, and telling her the whole of her little love story. 
But of course "John " knew best. 

** Thank you, my own darling. Only for a little time," 
he whispered, as he led her over the damp, dark, uneven 
stones to the light of the outer day. Here the Lyndsays 
awaited them, and summoned them to a general explora- 
tion of the place. 

"We had quite lost you," sad Katie. "We did not 
know that you were there. Mr. Vereker says that he is 
an archaeologist, and can tell us all about the building. 
Come and listen, Stella." 

But, although Stella walked demurely at Mrs. Lyndsay's 
side, it is to be feared that she did not hear much of the 
Honorable Donald's explanations. She said presently 
that she was tired, and sat down on a long, low, boundary 
wall, which scarcely showed its e:Lones amongst the grass. 
T' e trees were green and shady; the sunlight threw 
golden rays between their bougns on the soft turf at their 
feet. She looked at the mouldering walls, and wondered 
a little about the history of the men who had once dwelt 
between them ; wondered if they had loved and prayed 
and striven as people do in our days, and whether maidens 
had ever before been wooed in the cold stone c»^lls of Bal- 
merino. Henceforward the place would be a sacred one 
to her. 

"Not much of a ruin after all, is it?" said Donald' 
Vereker's cheery voice. " Ever been to Dunkeld, Miss 
Raeburn ? That's a fine place. You'd like it better than 
this." 

" Should I ! " thought Stella. But she did not reply in 
words. She plucked a little ivy leaf from the w3.ll beside 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



33 



Lit this to any 
,0 consult you 
nil grudge you 
1 you promise 
;o-morrow, and 



Mrs. Lyndsay's 
ar niucii of the 

said presently 
r, low, boundary 
longst the grass. 

sunlight threw 
soft turf at their 
, and wondered 

had once dwelt 
ved and prayed , 
«rhether maidens '1 

one colls of Bal- 

be a sacred one 

«>" said Donald 
Dunkeld, Miss 
ike it better than 

did not reply in 
the wall beside 



her, flattened it carefully between her Uands, and placed 
it (when she thought nobody was looking) in one of the 
folds of her purse. Only Isa Lyndsoy — following the 
course of the little love-drama with loyal interest — per- 
ceived and understood. 

*' I'm awfully bowled over," said Donald Vereker that 
evening, with an expression of the deepest self-commisera- 
tion. •' I feel that I have received my death-blow. 
* Carry me out to die,' somebody. * I am slain by a fair, 
cruel maid.' " 

" Who is the lady ? " asked one of his sisters laughing. 
There was a large party in the billiard-room at Esquhart 
Towers, and Donald's confession was evidently made for 
the public benefit. 

" Her father is something in jute, I believe," said the 
[Honorable Don, as his friends often called him. " Her 
iame's Stella — star of my existence ! Don't look so black, 
[Hannington. I'm not going to poach. You should have 
[seen Jack adoring her to-day at Balmerino ; it would 
[teach you a lesson." 

" We don't need a lesson," said Lady Grace. " We all 
[know Mr. Hannington." There was perhaps just a little 
lalice in her tone. 

" Don't mark my score to any one else, Lady Val," 
called out Donald. " You're marking, arei. t you ? That's 
line. I declare 1 believe you were putting it down to 
rack." 

They all laughed. They were a merry party, and suf- 
iciently familiar with each other for much jesting and 
)adinage — more, sometimes, than Hannington quite cared 
rbr. He took up his position beside Lady Val — who was 
cousin of the Esquharts, and whom he had known for 
rears. She was a tall, handsome woman of six and 
renty, with flashing, black eyes, a bold, haughty face— 
rhich yet had something in it that was fine and frank and 
Irresistibly engaging— and a particularly bright and win- 
king smile. 

" Who is this girl ? " she asked him, carelessly, but in a 
)werea voice. 

" ^^"^^^ he means a Miss Raeburn whom we met to- 
lay at iJalmerino. Several girls were there " 

She shot a keen glance at him. " Was Miss Raeburn's 
lame Stella ? " 

.3 



14 THU II VK Ot' HIE IIOVSR, 

•' I Ix'Hovi' it was," snid ll.ninin^tctn, rxMininlng Iiis nic 
rnthor nttontivcly. " I think I luiinl lirr rftllfil ho." 

Unlorluimtoly for Inin I)«)n N'ru'krr lu'nril ihe Inst 
words. 

"You tiniik yon hrnrd her « iillcd so? Oh, bnse de- 
reiver I you know it as well as i do, for you told ine her 
name yourself." 

I.ndy Val's eyes llashecl their Mm k li^hlnings at Itan- 
nington, hut that f^enthMnan oidy smiled and shrugged his 
shoidders, whi( h, \nuler the < irmnistanres, was perhapn 
the !)est thing he < oid*! ch). 

•• Miss Stella Kaeburn is nhoiit the prettiest girl I ever 
saw," Donald went on. "She has g«»t perfect features, 
golden hair, blue eyes, a rose leal romplexion, and -I as- 
sure you, on my honor- no Srotrh a< < ent. She has been 
n!>road for some years that's why. She'll have a pot of 
money, for her father's a regular millionaire — why, she's 
said to be the biggest " 

An interruption here (u curred. Mr. Vereker was sum- 
moned to the door of the billiard room, and asked to 
speak to the agent, who hacl just arrived from Dundee on 
business. lie did not ronu* back for several minutes ; 
but when he returned his ta< e was a little grave and pale. 
And his manner had grown subdued. 

'• I have just heard of a shocking thing," he said, while 
the company halted in their game and looked at him in 
surprise. •* You know that I was speaking of that ])cau 
tiful girl whom we met .'xlay ? Well, this very afternoon— 
for aught I know, while ^ wereanuising ourselves in the 
ruins at Halmerino — her father, Matthew Raeburn, shot 
himself in his own ofticc — ^blew out his brains with a re- 
volver, in, it is supposed, a fit of madness, and was foimd 
there dead when his clerk looked in at six o'<:loek this 
evening. Maclntyre has just brought the news." 

"Oh, that [)oor girl !" cried Lady Val, and looked to 
Hannington for sympathy. iJut he did not reply. 



.» 



THE LUCK Ot ritli /foUSff, 



lining bi^ < «e 
rftlliMl .H»»." 
tanl the last 

Oh, l)rtse (le- 
I iol<l mc her 

nin^« III n»in 
il shriigniMl his 
, was perhaps 

lirst girl I ever 
prkTl feaUires, 
on. .iihI 1 ns 
She has been 
have a pot of 
ire— why, she's 

reker was suin- 

nml asked to 

rom Dundee on 

veral minutes ; 

grave and paU*. 

" lu> said, while 
)ked at him in 
r of that beau 
^ery afternoon- 
ourselves in the 

Raeburn, shot 
ains with a re- 
, and was found 
six o'clock this 
_' news." 

and kx)ked to 
)t reply. 



CIIAITKK V. 

rtki.ia's I.OVP.M. 

loHN llANNiNdTON felt ptizzled as to the course that 
he shouhl ptirsue. Ou^hl he to (all at the house of 
mourninj^ ? (Mi^ht lie to write? Slmuid he wait until 
Stella made some sign r* If lie had been deeply in love 
with her, these dilhriilties would pr<ibably have s(»lv<*d 
themselves, lie woiihl have Il(»wn to her side, an«I tried 
[to make himself a c(»!nlnrt and a support t<» her. Jjiit then 
le was not partitularly in love with Stella only with her 
Jretty face and her fortune. The pretty fa< c would n<;w, 
le reHected, be disfigured with tears ; the eyes would n(jt 
imile, nor the rosy li, s return his kisses ; he had better stop 
iway. 'I'lie fortune thank lleav(;n! was all the more 
iccure because of Matthew Raeburn's death. No father 
rould now be there to interfere, and Stella would not 
)bjcct to his using her money in his own way. Ilanning- 
\i)\\ built a good many brilliant castles in the air at this 
Wme. It seemed to him that his luck was about to change. 
He was of course very sorry for Stella, lie hoped — . 
id this was a serious consideration- that there was /lo 
lint of madness in the blood of the Kaeburn family. Not 
rcn Stella's fortune — unless it were a very large one 
ideed — would gild that pill. What but madness would 
lave led Mr. Raeburn to raise his hand against his own 
Ife ? There were no reasons for the act ; the man was 
ircly solvent, and Stella's million secure. • 
He pondered over these matters a good deal, and grew 
kther absent-minded in conserpience ; so that his friend, 
idy Valencia Oilderoy, popularly called Lady Val, asked 
iim one day what was wrong. They were in 'he billiard- 
loom together, for both were passionately fond of billiards ; 
^Ut after a rather perfunctory game, tliey had establish- 
themselves in a cushioned window-seat, whence they 
ratched the driving rain that had fallen all day as if it 
rould never cease. 
" What a sigh 1 " said Lady Val, at last. 



36 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



" What is wrong with you, Jack." 

" I don't think anything is wrong with me, Lady Val." 

*• Oh, don't tell me that. You are not like yourself one 
bit. Is it money this time ? " 

They were very old friends, and Jack, as she called him, 
did not resent the questioning. 

" No," he said, slowly, " it's not money exactly." 

" Then," she said, very decidedly, " it's the little 
Dundee girl." 

" I do not quite know whom you allude to. Lady Val." 

" Don't get on your high horse with me. Jack. You 
know perfectly well. You've not been like yourself ever 
since we heard of that poor man's death, and Donald says 
that you were quite smitten by her beaux yeux — " 

" Les beaux yeux de sa cassette" hummed Jack, almost 
below his breath ; then, in a louder voice, " I assure you. 
Lady Val, that Donald knows nothing about it. I admired 
the young lady, certainly, but to be * smitten ' in Donald's 
sense of the term is quite a different thing." 
-'^ Lady Val gave him one of the very keen looks that Mr. 
Hannington did not altogether like, and held peace for 
a time. Presently she said, more seriously than usual : 

" I'm sorry for that girl. She will be having a bad time 
of it. She has no mother, I hear, and no brothers or sis- 
ters — only an old aunt. She must feel uncommonly lonely, 
poor child. I wish it were the proper thing to go and see 
her ; not that I should be much good as a consoler." And 
she laughed a little harshly. " Why don't you go, Jack ? " 

" I ? " said Hannineton. " I — well ! — would that be the 
proper thing ? " 

" Don't know, I'm sure. Never did know what was the 
proper thing, all my life long. I do what I feel inclined, 
and propriety takes care of itself." 

" We are not all so privileged. You do the right thing 
by instinct, and need not care about conventional views. 
We poor men toil after you by slow degrees, and make a 
hundred mistakes to your one." 

" I like you least of all, do you know, when you pay 
compliments," said Lady Y?^. carelessly. " Give me that 
box of caramels off the tabic, please, and let us mitigate 
the severity of the Scotch summer by French bon-bons. 
Do you like caramels ?" 

" Immensely — when they come from you," 



'#' 



THE LUCK OF THK HOUSE 



37 



^e, Lady Val." 
:e yourself one 

she called him, 

ixactly.*' 

< it's the little 

to, Lady Val." 
ne, Jack. You 
; yourself ever 
nd Donald says 
yeux — " 
ed Jack, almost 

" I assure you, 
t it. I admired 
en ' in Donald's 

1 looks that Mr. 
held peace for 
y than usual : 
iving a bad time 
brothers or sis- 
jmmonly lonely, 
ng to go and see 
consoler." And 
; you go, Jack ? " 
vould that be the 

low what was the 1 
t I feel inclined, 

o the right thing 
iventional views, 
■ees, and make a 

w, when you pay 

" Give me that 

id let us mitigate 

French bon-bons. 

ou." 



" No compliments." 

" It is no compliment. It is sober fact. I adore every- 
thing that comes from you 1 " 

He dropped on one knee as be spoke, in an attitude of 
mock adoration. Lady Val, enthroned on the red cushions 
of the wide window-seat, laughed at him, and offered him 
her box of sweets. He declined, unless she would herself 
put one into his mouth with her own fingers. At first she 
refused, but after a little persuasion consented, and laughed 
to see him reduced to speechlessness by an unusually big 
caramel. She looked very animated and handsome, her 
eyes sparkling, the color flashing into her cheeks, her white 
teeth gleaming between those ripe red lips. Hannington 
heartily admired her. In fact, he thought her far more 
handsome than Stella. 

What would Stella have thought of him if she had seen 
him kneeling at Lady Val's feet, crunching her bon-bons, 
laughing at her jokes ? while she — the girl that he pro- 
fessed to love — ^was agonizing in the first sorrow of her 
young life — all the blacker and more terrible to her because 
the man who had won her heart was not at her side to 
enable her to bear it. Lady Val was innocent enough ; 
she had not the ghost of an idea that there was anything 
definite between her old friend and " the little Dundee 
girl," as she designated Stella ; but John Hannington him- 
fself could not be held blameless. He was not without 
)angs of conscience. It would be wrong to suppose that 
le had no heart at all. But both conscience and heart 
spoke very feebly in the presence of self-interest, love of 
[ihe world, and a desire to be comfortable. 

** Do you remember," he said, rather more softly than 

le knew, " how we sat a whole afternoon together in the 

fork of an apple-tree ten years ago, with all the gover- 

lesses scouring the park for you, and the Marquis threat- 

ming me with a horsewhip whenever I appeared ? " 

" I remember it. That was the first time you proposed 
to me," said Lady Val coolly. 

" But not the last." 

" Oh dear, no. We have gone through the form half a 
^dozen times, have ,e not ? Really, it has quite grieved 
■me to put you to so much trouble." 
.1 "Has it ! Perhaps you had better reconsider 
lecision ? " 



your 



38 



ri!E LUG A' OF THE IfOUSE. 



(< 



Is that to count as the seventh ?" she asked, with a 
haughty sparkle in her great black eyes. " No, no. Won't 
do, jack. If we marry at all, we must marry money, you 
and I. We are both as poor as church mice, and we cannot 
afford to give uj) the world for each other, can we ? W<e 
must each take our chance when it <:()mes." 

" I have often wondered why you never were married, 
Val." ^ • 

" Not for want of asking, Mr. Hannington," she replied, 
lie bowed at the implied rebuke. " My single estate suits 
me very well, thanks. I can do as I i)lease ; perhaps I 
couldn't, if 1 had a husband. And as for you, your destiny 
is decided." 

♦* How ?" 

" Money, Jack, money. You know you must marry an 
heiress, or what will become of you ? Perhaps the little 
Dundee girl would do ; or somebody else with a few odd 
millions. Aren't you really going to see her? " 

" Not in this weather," said Hannington, with a .shrug ol 
the shoulders. He stood leaning against the wall beside 
the window, with a slightly dissatisfied expression on his 
face. A talk with I«ady Val often sent him away dissatis 
fied. He wanted more of her tftan he could get. •^ • 

But when the conversation was ended and he had time 
for reflection, it struck him that her hint was a valuable one. 
Elvidently, if he wanted to secure Stella's affection, he must 
not show himself neglecful of her in her trouble. He wrote 
a little note that very evening before dinner, and put it in 
the post-bag at the last moment with his own hand, so that 
no other eyes should rest upon the address. It was a 
skilfully-worded little note : short, tender, sympathetic, yet 
not sufficiently definite to commit him to very much in the 
future. ' "' 

He was not surprised to receive an answer in less than 
twenty-four hours. Stella must have written within a very 
short time of receiving his letter. It was clear that she was 
longing to be comforted ; that she thoroughly believed all 
his protestations, and that she had no idea of hiding any- 
thing from the man she loved. At the same time, he thought 
her letter a little cold. , » 

" Dear Mr. Hannington," she wrote, " your kind letter 
has just reached me. I can quite understand why you did 
not write before, . We are in great trouble, I cannot tell 



/'•//A' l.UCfC OF THE tfOVSE. 



30 



nswer in less than 
Itten within a very; 
clear that she waM 
iighly believed alii 
Idea of hiding any- ^ 
le time, he thought! 



iyou everything in a letter ; but if you will come to see me — 

\after Friday — we can talk together." Friday, llannington 

[understood, would be the day of her father's funeral. Then 

ime the less composed, the more unstudied part of the 

Jetter. " I am very, very miserable. I should l)e still more 

uscrablc if I had not you to trust to. You will tell me 

diat to do — I trust you with all my heart. I have not 

mown you long, but I feel as if years had passed since we 

:ame to Dundee together on board the Britannia. You will 

forgive me if 1 have said too much. i 

j Stella." 

" Dear little thing," said Hannington, as he folded up 

le letter and put it into his pocketbook. " She is half afraid, 

can see, that I shall thin!: that she has been too quick in 

iving her heart to the first bold wooer. The modern 

diet 1 Let me see, what does the older one say ? — / 

*^n Ittith, fair Montague, I am too fond, 

And therefore thou may'st think my havior light t 
But trust me, gentleman, I'll prove more true I 
Than those that have more cunning to be strange.* 

•tty creature I I'll go on Saturday and allay her fears, 
id dry her eyes with kisses. I don't see why we shouldn't 
married immediately. What will Val Gilderoy say to 
•\t, I wonder? If only she had the money, I know very 
t.1 which I should choose. Hut there's no chance. If I 
m't make a great coup with an heiress before long I shall 

floored, indeed." 

I He spoke lightly about the matter even to himself; but 

was rather unusually nervous when he set out on Satur- 

iy afternoon to pay his visit to Miss Raeburn. 

[He had not had much experience of women in distress. 

Is fair acquaintances had generally shown the sunny side 

Iheir natures to him. He fancied that when they were 

^rouble they flew into hysterics, slapped their maids' 

Jcs, shed oceans of tears, and were generally noisy and 

jsponsible. That he could not imagine Stella doing any 

*iese things was nothing to the point ; he believed that 

sry woman had incalculable reserves of unreasonable 

in her nature, and of course Stella could be no excep- 

to the rule. 

Will you walk this way, Sir, please?" said a solemn- 



(if 




Pi 

I I 

V: ; 



•IM 



1 




I : 


i 


|\ 


i 







fl 



40 



y?//? rrvA' or ivr-: norsff. 



visn}T\>c1 w\A\\\ \\\ Mm k, who oprtuil the door to hhu ftt 
Thoinhonk. • 

The pomh^rotis foolinon, \\\v irrrptoju h.ililo iMilhn, ^eefACd 
ttA \\(K\v ihsrtpi>crtrot!. n.nmingtoti notit nl i\ look orfoftoftl- 
l\rss i\ho\il tho innvl^lc p.-UiMl h!\ll, whriv \\y> mrtssos of exotic* 
IhnvtMs now cxhrtU'd (htir s\vo«>intss to the nit ; there was 
.•\n i^pproRsive silenre \\\ the ^n :U tuw hoviae. He >vot>deretl» 
with iihttle shiver, whether he Wfts to he rnhetl \^m)1\ to go 
into the h<tj;, gorffeonsly tnrnishod ihnwing roon», the bright 
rolorin^ .\\\y\ giluing o^^vhi^h wo\tM now sernt inore otilrK- 
gt'onsly r.vit of tMste \\\\\\\ rver. V.svW the gretU s»mlit view 
v\f the river from the j^l.ite glass wii\ilows wo\iUl sotnehow 
t>e intoler.'^Me. Ihit lu' \v;\h not rr-jtiired to hear witli stirh 
inrongrnities. The \\\m\\ \k\\ \\\\\\ lo n sinnll roont rtl the eutt 
of rt long passnge : ;i pl.o e to wliirlu jis he suapei tei!, the 
wonun v>f the f;\nn'ly h.nl hetaken tlnMnselvcs in their hour 
of tronhle. It wt\s a stnnll room, octngonrtl in sh.ipe, with 
U>\v ho\>k shelves rtoming ro\nul ii, a desk in one tortier, ft 
work tnhle in .mother. Tin' window was narrow, rtt\(l lookeil 
ont upon A shruhhety. The room \\m\ aw air of hahitatioti 
whii h heloi^ged to Uw other parts of the house, tl hral 
always heen a\>propriated to A\n\t Jai ky's \ise, and had 
pn>ved .1 veritable harbor of refuge to Stella during ihe 
j>Ast few d.iys. 

The n>om was not r-cry light. The servant Imd shut 
the door befon* Hannington was cpn'te sure that Stella 
WAS alone in the room with him. She rame forward very 
quietly — nt slender ligiire all ii\ blaik- 4ti\d heUl otu j^.^ 
her h.ind as if ab«)ut to greet ai\ otdinary visitor, '^f 
He gathered her in his arms, atul kissed her on the brow, 1 
t)Ut for the first few seeoiitls ilid not say a word. The '" 
silent tenderness of his greeting almost overcame poor 
Stella's ]H)wers of ei\duranec. 

She lay, trembling from head to frxH, upon his shotdder, 
he eould just sec her check, and noticed that it was very 
white ; the little hands whicl\ clung to him were limp and 
cold. 

*• My dr.rling, h«>w you must have sufTered 1" Ilannittg 
ton said at length. He led her to a sofa and seated him 
self beside her, with his arm round her waist. He wa-^ 
surprir.ed to hear no outlnirst of emotion, no sobs of grief.; 
Ihit outbursts of any kind were t:ot in Stclla*8 wav. 

She raised her !\cad from the sjiouldcr on which he had; 



Tim nrK or- riin novsn. 



4i 



V 

^,ok ol lov\ovn- 

,vomU1 somol\ow 
, hoiir wil^ «^^''^i 

vc« in OuMt hout 

, in one rot ni% A , 
xrvow, nmWooVert 

ohonse. tj ^'^^^ 
y's use, nna n^^* 



Hcvvani bait «^uj< 

. sure Ibal Me\^a 

,vnc rovwarcWery 

'v- .uul UcUl om 

ovainavy visitor. 

\ \.cr on tbc \>vow» 

nav a worrt. » "* 

,si v)vcrcamc i)ov>« 

. upon h?H R\\onU\cM ; 
cdlUat ilNvasvovv 
him wcvc \nni> '^'^'^ 

,,(tcvcd\MUnmug- 
ofa and RCalcd ^.«n 
her wai«t. nc>N.y, 
ion, no HobH 01 Rt.clf 
V Stella's Nvav. 
dcr on which he hAi 



triin! to n\;<kc it tP«t. Ilrr eyolitls w«'n* ie«1 niul wuMi 
with weeping and slee)»l«'ssne«'^, lull her voiirMiid niiiMMff 
were very « !«hn. 

•• It has heen hnrd," she snid. " 1 sU|t|M»Me y<»<i kmov 
nil -all .'dMiul it fimn the newsjtjipers ? " Die little 
vAlrh in her voire wus very patlielit , even tu llantiing 
tcMi's ear. 

•« I know sonn>lhinj), orminse. It wa« very pad ; hnl, 
my darling, ytni nnisl not let yotir mind dwell n|Hin it. 
lie nmsl have heen ill, yon kmov ; nut a« rcnintahle lor hi a 
ttrtions at the time. It was a smt nf deliiimn." 

Oh, yes, I know that," said Stella, «|nielly. "I)ear 

a|)a was tar to » t^ood to end his life iit that way if lu' had 

leen in his right mind. \'i»n do not know how gdod and 

ind he wnH I alwavs thinking ami plaiming fur others— 

\X me, espe« ially- 

,She faltered a little and hit her lip, while a tear stole 

lllenlly down her while rheek. I lanninglt^n < aressed her 

Ailely. She was snrely very hravr, this little iMindee 

[Irl 1 Would she hreak down ant! make a stene helore he 

nl away? Her grief had not destroyed her heanly one 

[igle hit. He felt honestly, genuinely hunl of her. 

•• He was always so genertius,'" the girl went on, as if 

(leading with him hn her father's memcuy; "so anxloiis 

do good, and 3o upright and honorahleall his life long I 

kVery one res[KM.led him. He was a gotul nwoi, John. 

[on will never douht it, Avill you? although his own hand 

'ok away his life." ' ' 'it^c^t^^'>xi!>^''s*''%-V,H 

"No, dear; I will never d.mhl it." ■■^- '< ' -jj 

'* So kind -so loving so tenderhearted!" said Stella, 
ih vchemcnec. '* Nohody eould douht it who knew Idm 
who knew him as well as Atmt Jaeky and I 1 

shows how \ipright he must have heen, that these 
sinesR-trouhles should prey on his mind so hum h, anfl 
en affeel his hrain at last 1 Half of it was for my sake, 

elicve. As if I would not have heeti just as happy in 

cottjige as in a pala«e far happier indee<l than in this 

Ig, overgrown, new ))hu.e, whi< h 1 don't like half so well 

our old house in the NeUiergatc."*- -^i' »i 

•'He had husiness-lrouhles, then?'' said Hannlngton,' 

BJiddcn ipialm of fear assailing him. ' ' • •'♦N* " ^Tt .. • \>^ 

"Oh, yes. Did you not know? It was in to-day's 

Lpcr; but perhaps you have uotnuticcd it, g ilc was not' 



4* 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



so rich as people thought him to be, and that preyed upor 
his mind. The doctors say thj-t all his ex' itement an(| 
his eager way of talking about his riches mei civ showed 
the strain that he was undergoing. If he had made \\\. 
his mind at once to retrench and to live quietly, he could 
have weathered the storm, they say. But a sort of mad 
ness seemed to have taken hold of him. He is not a 
bankrupt, but the house and everything will have to be 
sold at once, and Aunt Jacky and I will have only a 
pittance to live upon. But you must not be sorry for me 
dear," she said, suddenly breaking off at the sight of a 
strange expression on Hannington's face ; " as long as i 
have you, I want nothing else 1 And you will noi love 
me any the less if I am a beggar, will you ? " 



CHAPTER VI. 



MR. HANNINGTON S DECISION. 



HanninCwTon was aghast. And, even' at that moment, 
not only for his own sake. He was sorry for Stella, 
though he was sorrier for himself. Stella Raeburn a 
beggar 1 Could this be true i 

" It is bad news indeed," he said, not able to keep 'the 
dismay out of his voice. 

" You will not love me the less, will you, John ? " 

" No, dear ; oh, no. But — we can't disguise the fact,, 
Stella — it may make a material difference in our plans for| 
the future. I — I — am not — rich." He could not give| 
her this hint without perfectly genuine agitation. It^ 
seemed to him that fate had played him a cruel trick. 

" I know," said Stella, slipping her little hand — oh, so 
confidingly — into his nerveless fingers, "you told me th.it 
in the boat. But we are young and strong ; we can work. 
and wait — surely ? It may not be for so very long." 

" Why ? Have you any other prospect ? " There was a| 
new hardness in his tone, 



iat preyed upor 
ex' itcment ancj 

merely showed 
\e had made up 
luietly, he could 
t a sort of mad 
I. He is not a 

will have to be 
ivill have only a 
be sorry for mc 
It the sight of a 
I ; "as long as 1 
ou will noi love 
?" 



T//£ LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



43 



3N. 



at that moment, g 
sorry for Stella,;^ 
Stella Raeburn a 

)t able to keep the 

rou, John ? " 

disguise the fact,j 
ce in our plans for 
le could not give 
nine agitation. It^ 
I a cruel trick. 
little hand— oh, sol 

" you told me thatl 
rong ; we can work 
o very long." i 
ct ? " There was a| 



•' Oh, no, except that of earning money," said Stella, 
shyly. " I thought of taking a situation, if you would not 
mind — if you would not be ashamed of me. 1 speak 
French and German fluently, you know, and my music 
and singing arc pretty good ; I don't think I should find 
l^'any difficulty in finding children to teach." 

" You a governess ! Nonsense ! Is that necessary ? " 
" I think it will be," said the girl, her eyes filling with 
tears at the sharp edge in his voice. " I must se^that my 
aunt wants nothing ; and our income will be very small." 
• " What shall you do then ? " 

*' Oh, John, don't look as if you were angry with me." 
" I am not angry, dear ; or at least I am only angry 
Pwith circumstances — for your sake — that things should 

[have turned out so " 

Stella turned towards him pleadingly. " If it is God's 
will that we should suffer, John, OHght we to repine?" 

Hannington had difficulty in repressing his usual char- 

cteristic shrug. 

" It does not grieve me very much to have to work for 

y own living," she weut on, her sweet treble tones 

averfng a little now and then. *' If only I could haVe 

orkod for my dear, dear father, how gladly I would have 

one it ! There is nothing hatd in working for those we 

vc. What I grieve for is his death and his distress of 

ind before he died." 

" I am afraid," said Hannington, " that everybody can- 
ot be so unworldly as you, Stella." 
She g3,ve him a troubled, puzzled look. Shedidnotsee 
^is meaning in the least. " Don't you appcove oF my 
"* "an?" she asked. 

** Did you mean to carry it out in Dundee ? " 
" No, not in Dundee. I could not bear it here ; and it 
ouJd be worse for Aunt Jacky than for me. Some 
iends of our? the Sinclairs, have written to us to stay 
ith them in Dunkeld for a little tinie, and if I go there I 
2iy be able to get some work." 

_ It is a horrible idea," said Hannington, suddenly 
sing to pace the room. " You are not fit to work. And 
— iqjn a poor, miserable dog, with barely a sixpence in 
" e wOrld. I — I don't see what we are to do." 

His eyes fell; he could not bear to look her in the 
ace 



44 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



\''. "We must wait," said Stella, softly. ^ 

** Yes, we must wait," he said, in almost an eager tone." 
" We really cannot decide on anything just yet. If you 
go on your visit to Dunkeld, perhaps something will turn 
up — we must not be rash, you know, Stella ; I must not 

let you be rash " 

He stopped abruptly and drummed with his fingers on 
a little table that happened to be near at hand. Stella sat 
with downcast eyes, the color stealing into her pale 
cheeks. Was he going to propose something rash on his 
own account ? There are times when women adore rash- 
ness. If he had asked her to marry him in a week, Stella 
could not have found it in her heart to say him nay. But 
that proposal was not in his mind at all. 
|K " When should you go ! " he asked, advancing towards 
her, but not touching her — rather^ holding himself back a 
little rigidly as if under some restraint. 

- " Next week, I think. The sooner we are out of the 
house the better. There is to be a sale." 

" I shall know where you are ? I shall be able to write 
to you ? " 

- " Yes." V / .,♦ ; 

" You lec I shall not be able to stay much longer in 
this neighborhood," said Hannington, rather nervously. 
" My visit to the Esquharts terminates next week, and I 
— I don't quite know what I am going to do then. You 
will let me know your movements ? " 

For almoft the first time Stella felt hurt and chilled. 
She lifted her eyes with a lovely reproach in their azure 
depths — " Of course I shall, John ! " 

He bit his lip. " And I shall see you again or write to 
you," he said. " I think I must really be getting off: I 
shall only just be in time to dress for dinner." 

Stella was a little surprised. "It is five o'clock," she 
said. * I thought they did not dine till eight at the 
Towers. You will take some tea before vou go ? " 

" Thatlks ; no, I would rather not. You will give kind 
-ilessagee from me to your aunt ? I must see her another 
t^'me." He was becoming extremely anxious to get away. 

" ]VLv 1 tell her, John ? " 

* ^^), I think not, dear. Not just yet, darling," he 
said, turning his eyes away, and trying to speak softly. 
" I will write.". 



E, 



TffE LUCK OF The iroOsE, 



M 



(i 



'.I 



t an eager tone." 
ust yet. If you 
nething will turn 
jlla ; I must not 

th his fingers on 
land. Stella sat 
; into her pale 
thing rash on his 
)meii adore rash- 
in a week, Stella 
ly him nay. But 

ivancing towards 
g himself back a 

T are out of the 

1 be able to write 

■ •■-• 'f 

much longer in 
rather nervously, 
next week, and I 
to do then. You 



hurt and chilled, 
ch in their azure 

again or write to 
be getting off: I 
nner." 

five o'clock," she 

till eight at the 

vou go ? " 
/ou will give kind 
t see her another 
xious to get away. 



yet, darling," he 
T to speak softly. 



Y( u are not vexed with me, are you ? " she asked| 
coming up to ^him, and laying her hand gently on b' • 
arm. 

" Vexed with you ? Certainly not,^ Vhy should I be 
^exed ? I — confound it all, Stella, Hr^rj't you see what a 
i:)sition I am in ? " he said, actually o^amping with vexa- 
ftion, and then relenting when he saw her frightened face. 
I" Poor little darling ! it isn't your fault. You are the sweet* 
:est, noblest, most perfect of perfect women ! Dear Stella! 
you do care for me a little, don't you ? You won't quite 
[forget mc !" 

He kissed her as he spoke. She had no idea that he 
[meant his kiss for an eternal farewell. She clung to him 
[tremulously and looked piteously into his face. " Mus» 
rou go ? " she asked. 

I must, indeed. Good-bye, my little darling. Don't 
^ry to keep me, there's a good girl. I'll write." 

She released him at once. Her face was very white, 
md her lips quivered, but she did not utter a single sob 
>r a complaining word. She had heard it said that women 
rere cowards and incapable of self-control. She would 
show her lover that she could be bravely mistress of her- 
;li. He kissed her again, and hurried out of the room, 
)t daring to look back. In viev of the resolution which 
le knew that he should ult'm -t ly ta' e, he felt himelf the 
leanest of the mean. 

Stella watched him depart,Jand then, as was perhaps 
ilatural, she threw herself on a sofa, and burst into an 
f gony of sobs. The interview had been wretchedly unsat- 
'ifactory • but what she wanted she scarcely knew. Some 
4f Hannington's looks and tones returned to her with start- 
ing distinctness ; but she did not yet know their full mean- 
pg. Any doubt of his fidelity would have seemed to 
%Rx cruelly disloyal. 

j% Hannington strode down to the railwr.y station, whence 
ie took a train to the village on the outskirts of which 
fcsquhart Towers was situated, and arrived at his host's 
•bode about six o'clock in the afternoon. He went straight 
to his own room, and did not appear till dinner-time» 
laving, in the meantime, thoroughly reviewe(f the situation, 
id made up his mind what to do. "A very near thing !" 
said to himself. " I was as close to making a mess of 
as ever I was in my life. Luckily nobody knew, and I 



46 



THE LUCK OF THE IfOUSE, 



can back out of it in time. Why, if I am to marry a girl 
with no money, I might as well take Lady Val, who has 
pride and spirit and good blood, and can amuse a fellow 
when he's low. Stella's not a patch upon her after all, 
although she's a sweet little thing, and very fond of me. 
She'll get over it and be married in a twelvemonth. I 
must settle mat'.ers as speedily as possible. Jove I it 
was a very near thing ! " 

He looked as brisk and bright as usual when he appeared 
in the drawing-room before dinner, and Lady Val eyed 
him somewhat curiously. It fell to his lot to take her down 
to dinner, and no sooner were they established at the 
table, and a busy hum of talk was arising on every side, 
than she turned with one f)f her abrupt but not ungraceful 
movements, and said, in a quick, low tone :— 

" Well, how about the little Dundee girl ? " 

He looked at her in surprise. 

" You've been to see her, I know. How was she ? " 

" Oh, poor little thing, as well as one could expect," 
said Hannington, accepting the situation. " Feels it very 
much, of course." 

" Is it true that she will have no money after all ? " 

" Quite true, poor girl. (Soing out as a governess, I 
believe." 

" Then" — Lady Val's eyes flashed — " there was no 
truth in what Donald said ? You are rot going to marry 
her." 

" Certainly not," said Mr. Hannington, tranquilly. 
" I always told you I should marry for money." 

A dinner-table which holds a large party 's not at all a 
bad place for confidential communications. After an inter- 
val, in which the servants were performing their usual 
offices, Lady Val resumed, with her eyes on her plate : — 

" She's not disappointed in you, then ? " 

" My dear Lady Val ! What cause could she have to 
be disappointed in me ? Old friends like yourself may, of 
course, have good reason to feel that I don't always come 
up to their standard, but I have only a casual acquaintance 
with Miss Raeburn." 

Lady Val tossed up her chin and looked sceptical ; but 
as Hannington's tranquility was perfectly unmoved, and 
he began almost immediately to talk of other thmgs, she 
acquiesced and spoke no more of ** the little Dundee girl.' 
iJut she did not forget her for all that. 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



47 



I to marry a girl 
iy Val, who has 
I amuse a fellow 
n her after all, 
^rery fond of me. 
welvemonth. I 
sible. Jove 1 it 

rhen he appeared 
Lady Val eyed 
to take her down 
tablished at the 
g on every side, 
ut not ungraceful 
e : — ' 
rl ? " 

ow was she ? " 
le could expect," 
Feels it very 



<( 



;y after all ? " 
as a governess, I 

— " there was no 
»ot going to marry 



ngton, tranquilly. 

money." 

arty 'S not at all a 

IS. After an inter- 

rming their usual 

res on her plate :— 

I?" 

could she have to 
e yourself may, of 
don't always come 
casual acquaintance 

3ked sceptical ; but 

ctly unmoved, and 

if other things, she 

little Dundee girl. 



Meanwhile Stella was pouring out her heart on paper 
as she had never poured it out "before. She wrote to John 
Hannington that she was afraid that she had vexed him ; 
that she would do his bidding, and would renounce her 
cheme of becoming a governess, if he wished"it ; that ail 
cr desire was to please him, and that she was not afraid of 
joverty so long as he loved her. In short, she wrote as a 
oman only writes when she is devoted heart and soul to 
he man who receives such an expression of her feelings ; 
nd yet there was not a single word in which she might be 
eld to outstrip the bounds of maidenly modesty and refine- 
ent. Her love was implied throughout, but it did 
ot thrust itself into words. It was a letter which would 
ave brought a true lover to her side at once, to comfort 
•nd console. But Hannington had never loved her as .she 
ielieved ; and her words embarrassed him so terribly, that 
%!t could not undertake to reply to them without delibera- 
wn. In a couple of days he sent her some half-dozen lines 
suring her, coldly enough, that she had not offended him 
d that he would write again or visit her at Dunkeld, if 
e would only send him her address and the date of her 
parture from Dundee. He did not want, in fact, to do 
say anything too definite before she left the neighbor- 
od. 

Stella sent a timid little note, which breathed in every 
e of a wounded heart, to say that she and her aunt were 
laving Dundee on the Thursday of that week. She en- 
sed her address, v*nd ventured to add a sorrowful hope 
at he would write to her very soon. 
" The sooner the better, perhaps," said Hannington to 
mself. The task was a hard one even for him, and he 
d some difficulty in performing it. But the letter was 
ritten and despatched on :he Friday. 
Some delay occurred in Miss Raeburn's arrangements, 
wever, and it was not until Saturday afternoon that 
11a and her aunt arrived at Dunkeld and were met 
their friends at the railway station. Mrs. Sinclair 
lias not a constant resident in Scotland, but she i>ad 
^ed at Dunkeld when she was a girl, and was exceed- 
pgly fond of the place. She and her husband had taken a 
Jouse for the season, and, as they were much attached to 
tella, they had determined to keep her and her aunt with 
' em for as long a time as they would stay. Mrs. Sinclair 



48 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



was almost an invalid, and Mr. Sinclair had bookish and 
scientific tastes. They had not many acquaintances in 
the neighborhood, and were able to promise entire seclu- 
sion to their desolate guests. 

Stella looked admiringly at the hills and the beautiful 
old town, as she was driven from the station in an open 
carriage towards St. Anselm's — the house which Mr. and 
Mrs. Sinclair occupied. For a little while the shadow of 
her great grief seemed to lift itself as she looked at the 
exquisite landscape around her, and heard the historic 
names of hill and vale. They drove slowly along the road 
until they came close to the bridge which spans the river 
Tay — here only a brawling stream, compared with its 
majestic volume as it nears Dundee, but far more beauti- 
ful in its swift career over rocks and stones, under the 
arches of the bridge beside the wooded banks and glades 
and heather-covered hills, than almost any other river in 
the world. Mr. Sinclair knew the place exceedingly well, 
and was in his element in naming the different points of 
interest t > a stranger. Stella, usually full of intelligent 
attention, listened rather languidly. What had he been 
telling her ? she wondered afterwards. " The Cathedral — 
the Duchess — salmon fishing — Duke John — Birnam wood 
that came to Dunsinane " — it was all confused and mingled 
in her ear. Only the beauty of the scene remained clear. 
They halted by the bridge, so that she might see the view. 
She was struck by the golden color of the wr ter as it lay in 
shallow pools beneath the sun — the water was low, and 
the stream looked very narruw between its banks— by the 
beauty of the rowan-trees, and the woods that were begin- 
ning to" color " beneath the autumnal touch. She had 
no conception that the moment was big with Fate. 

Their course did not lie over the bridge, but along the 
road beside the river for some distance. Just as they 
started again, Mrs. Sinclair uttered an exclamation. 

" I declare if I hadn't forgotten it till now ! There has 
been a letter waiting for you since yesterday, my dear 
Stella. I brought it with me, in case you might like to 
have it at once. Open it or not, just as you please. " 

She handed the girl an envelope, addressed to Stella, 
in John Hannington's handwriting. 

Stella hesitated, with the letter in her lap. Then, seeing 
that Mr. Sinclair was speaking to the coachman, and that 



i 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



49 



d bookish and 
luaintances in 
e entire seclu- 

i the beautiful 
ion in an open 

which Mr. and 

the snadow of 
I looked at the 
ard the historic 
\f along the road 
spans the river 
ipared with its 
ar more beauti- 
ones, under the 
inks and glades 
y Other river in 
jxceedingly well, 
fferent points of 
ull of intelligent 
lat had he been 
The Cathedral— 
n— Birnam wood 
used and mingled 
e remained clear, 
light see the view. 

wr ter as it lay in 
.ter was low, and 
its banks— by the 
s that were begin- 

touch. She had 

with Fate, 
ge, but along the 
ce. Just as they 
;xclamation. 

now ! There has 
esterday, my dear 
you might like to 
5 you please. " 
iddressed to Stella, 

r lap. Then, seeing 
:oachman, and that 



Mrs. Sinclair was attending closely to Miss Jacky*s crisp 
sentences, she ventured — in spite of the beating of her 
heart — to open the letter and peep at the contents 

Then she looked up. The scene was what it had always 
I been, but it had suddenly lost all charm for her. On her 
[right hand flowed the gleaming river, on the left rose a 
'bank of woody ground. The shadows of the trees lay 
[across the road, in pleasing mosaic work of alternate light 
(and darkness. The air was as fresh, the sky as clear and 
[blue as ever. But for many a long day Stella had only 
[to close her eyes and bring back a vision of that lovely 
[scene beyond the Dunkeld bridge, in order to renew the 
lensation of deadly sickness, faintness, and utter despair. It 
^as as if she had received her death-warrant upon that 
peasant road beside the Tay. For in his letter John 
\^annington had not minced matters. He could not marry 
a poor woman ; he would not — could not — ask her 

{D wait for him ; he renounced all pretension to her hand, 
n short, he gave Iier up, utterly and entirely — because 
Hhe was poor. And that was how Stella's love-letter was 
''inswered. 



CHAPTER Vn. 



ON THE ROAD 



ELTA did not faint or cry out. She sat perfectly still, 
e letter crushed in her hands, her face white to the 
)s. Before long, Mrs. Sinclair was struck by her extreme 
illor, and drew Aunt Jacky's attention to it by an excla- 
lation of horror. 

Why, my dear child 1 Look at her. Miss Jacky. Is 
le going to faint ? " 

*' Not at all," said Stella, essaying to smile, and slipping 
e letter quietly into her pocket. " I have a little head- 
:he, that is all." 

" You must lie down when we get home, and I'll send 

u up a cup of good, strong tea," said Mrs. Sinclair, with 

friendly nod. " Poor dear, you've had a deal to try you 

itely, have you not ? " . 

But the allusion to her recent sorrow was too much for 



50 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



Stella to bear. She drew her veil clown and said nothing, 
but Mrs. Sinclair saw that her hands were trembling and 
the tears dropping from her eyes. She turned delicately 
away, and for the rest of the drive confined her remarks 
to Miss Jacky, who had been going about, ever since the 
terrible day of her brother's death, with red eyes and a 
persistent habit of sniffing, but with undiminished energy 
and a sharper tongue than ever. Stella was for the pre- 
sent left alone. 

The carriage presently left the main road and turned up 
a narrow lane to the left. Here slow and careful progress 
was necessary, as the ruts were deep, and an occasional 
stone !ay in the way ; but if Stella had been in her accus- 
tomed mood, she would have enjoyed the drive by this 
narrow ascent, where the trees met overhead and afforded 
only ar; occasional view of the distant water and the tower- 
ing hills round " fair Dunkeld." St. Anselm's stood on 
high ground and overlooked the town and rivv ; it pos- 
sessed a splendid site, and the only thing to be regretted 
was the fact that the house itself was square, comnion- 
place, and not particularly large. But Stella saw nothing j 
her eyes were blind with grief. 

The poor child was dimly thankful to be left alone at 
last in the great chamber which Mrs. Sinclair had assigned 
to her. She threw herself on the bed and wept, as only 
young creatures can weep in the hour of trial — with an 
utter hopelessness and despair of the future, than which, 
we learn in later years, nothing can be more futile. Stella 
believed that she could never be happy again. Her mis- 
fortunes seemed more than she knew how to bear. Her 
father's death — so painful 'n its concomitant circumstances 
— the loss of her fortune, the desertion of her lover — these 
were troubles indeed. And what made it worse was her 
recollection of the trust that she had bestowed on John 
Hannington ; the tender words that she had lavished, the 
offer to wait for him — oh, the shame of it ! when he had 
not wanted to wait for her ; the absence of reserve and 
caution, which, in her single-hearted acceptance of his 
apparent homage, she liad never thought of maintaining. 
It occurred to her now that she had been much too ready 
to listen to him, that she had been too easily won to gain 
his esteem ; and she resolved, in bitterness of spirit, that 
no one should ever again have reason tg accuse h?r gf 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



5' 




over-eagerness to listen to a lover, She would live and 
die single and heart-broken ; she would earn an i^^rome 
for Aunt Jacky, and do her duty in the world, but the 
joys of life could never come to her. She saw herself, in 
imagination, growing old and grey, not cheerful, like dear 
Aunt Jack)', but stiff and ligid and unresponsive, and she 
sickened at the thought. Thirty, forty, fifty years of it, 
perhaps ! Oh, if she could but die at once, and hide her 
sorrow and her mortification in the grave ! 

She was sufficiently prostrate next day to be unable to 
rise, and the doctor who was sent for talked about a severe 
nervous shock, and the advisability of keeping her quiet. 
Stella turned her face to the wall, and hoped and longed 
that she was going to die. Surely she could not go on 
living with the cold hand of despair upon her heart ? 

But youth is strong and life is sweet in spite of passionate 
asseverations to the contrary. In a few days Stella was 
downstairs again — out on the lawn — walking feebly at first, 
and then with growing vigor, along the shady lar.es and 
over the heathery hills ; and then she recognize^ the fact 
she was not going to die but to live, and that, in spite of 
the pain at her heart, she must begin lo look for her work 
in life. 

She did not think of answering John Hannington's letter. 
She burned it one day in a paroxysm of grief and shame, 
and never thought of wondering whether or no he had 
destroyed those loving letters which he had had from her. 
An older woman, of more experience, would perhaps have 
Written to demand their restoration. The mere remem- 
brance of them brought a scorching flood of crimson to 
poor Stella's cheek and brow ; she certainly could not have 
borne to allude to them again. She wished the remem- 
brance of them to be entirely blotted out ; and she never 
imagined that Hannmgton might not be quite as anxious 
as she was to obliterate all traces of her first foolish dream 
of love. Stella's letters made very pretty reading, in 
Hannington's opinion ; and now that he had shown her 
the facts of her position, he had no idea of depriving him- 
self of the gratification which her expressions of devotion 
might some day afford to him. 

When Stella grew stronger she began to take long walks ; 
and as neither Mrs. Sinclair nor Aunt Jacky were strong 
enough to accompany her, she generally took them alone. 



Sa 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



As the autumn advanced, she began to make some silent 
preparations for her future work. She inserted an adver- 
tisement in the local papers, and put an announcement in 
the windows of various shops, to the effect that a lady 
wished to give daily lessons in French and German (acquired 
abroad), English, music, and singing. It was a modest 
little advertisement, and seemed to attract no attention 
from anybody. But Stella was not dismayed. She made 
inquiries about lodgings in Birnam and Dunkeld, and con- 
sulted the clergymen of the neighborhood about her 
chances of success. One and all asked her the same 
question — why had she fixed upon Dunkeld as a place in 
which to start her career? When the visitors left it in the 
autumn there was not the least chance for anybody, with- 
out very special qualifications indeed, to find pupils. 

" I suppose that I must go to Glasgow or Edinburgh," 

Stella rejected, sorrowfully. " I thought Aunt Jacky 

would like Dunkeld better ; that was all. And also, per- 

. haps, that 'Mrs. Sinclair could find me something. But 

she seems to know nobody." rnov^ 

It was in October when she came to this conclusion. 
She set out one afternoon for a long ramble — a longer one, 
indeed, that her aunt or her friends would have thought 
advisable ; but she was a good walker. She was accompa- 
nied by a splendid collie dog which belonged to Mr. 
Sinclair, but had attached himself almost exclusively to 
Stella since the beginning of her visit. She passed 
through Dunkeld, and turned up the road which ran past 
the village of Inver, towards the Rumbling Bridge and 
the Hermitage Falls. It was her favorite walk, and she 
had plenty of time before her. The Braan would be espe- 
cially fine in a day like this, for the previous two nights 
had brought heavy rain, and the stream would be " in 
spate," a sight which Stella had heard of but had not seen. 
She carried a basket for roots also, as she had heard Mrs. 
Sinclair express a wish for some specimens of oak fern; 
which grows freely on the banks of the Braan. 

She had got well up the hill, and was standing to look 
once more at the view — the little tributary stream with the 
village on its banks in the valley belov/ her, and, further 
on, the towers of Dmkeld, with the ever varying back- 
ground of hill and forest, and the canopy of a brilliant yet 
changeable autumn sky — when she was 7Qi;sed froi9 her 



r 



TftE LUCK OP' THE HOUSE ^ 



53 



'if 



uke some silent 
lerted an adver- 
inouncement in 
ect that a lady 
srman (acquired 
t was a modest 
ct no attention 
^ed. She made 
nkeld, and con- 
ood about her 
her the same 
:ld as a place in 
ors left it in the 
anybody, with- 
nd pupils, 
or Edinburgh," 
ht Aunt Jacky 
And also, per- 
omething. But 

this conclusion. 

-a longer one, 
d have thought 
le was accompa- 
elonged to Mr. 
t exclusively to 
She passed 

which ran past 
ing Bridge and 
\ walk, and she 

would be espe- 
ious two nights 
I would be " in 
Lit had not seen, 
had heard Mrs. 
ns of oak ferU; 
aan. 

:anding to look 
stream with the 
ler, and, further 
r varying back- 
>f a brilliant yet 
QUsed frpig her 




redmy mood by the sound of horses' hoofs on the road. 

he could not see the riders, because the road turned 

arply at a little distance above the spot where she was 

i^anding ; but the sound told her that several equestrians 

erj advancing, and she did not care to be overtaken in 

attitude of a tourist or a landscape painter, as she 

hrased it to herself, gazing at the scenery with abstract- 

d eyes — an incarnate note of admiration ! She called 

addie to heel, and walked on soberly in a purposeful 

d business-like way. 

A party of some half-dozen riders came down the road. 
'At the first two or three Stella did not even glance ; but 
OS the fourth passed, she became conscious that the gentle- 
inan had made a quick movement as if to raise his hat, and 
.then refrained, seeing that she either did not see him or 
aid not mean to look at him. Stella had just time to bow 
- to Mr. Donald Vereker. She looked instinctively at the 
next couple ; and then the color flashed into her pale face. 
It was John Hannington and a lady — a very handsome 
woman, by the by, with a good deal of color, and very 
black hair and eyes. 

Hannington did an extremely foolish thing. He did not 

often lose his self-control, but for a moment he certainly 

lost it now. Without waiting for Stella to bow first, he 

' impulsively raised his hat. In spite of the hot, tell-tale 

A*f|color in her face, however, Stella had spirit enough not to 

"return the salutation. She looked him steadily in the face 

and passed him by. Hannington's dark face grew purple 

with rage and shame. 

" The cut direct ! " said his companion, no other than 
Lady Val, who never spared him when she got an oppor- 
tunity of lasning him with her tongue. " What does that 
mean. Jack ? Did not that uncommonly pretty girl recog- 
nize you, or does she mean to decline your acquaintance?" 
" I'm sure I don't know," said Hannington, giving a 
savage cut to his horse's flanks. " I suppose she does not 
remember me ; or perhaps I am mistaken in her face." 

" Impossible, with such a startlingly pretty one," said 
Lady Val. She turned round and glanced after Stella. 
** Very graceful, too. Distinguished-looking. Who is she ? " 
" Oh, I must have been mistaken. I thought it was a 
young lady I once travelled with frgm London, but she 
would have known me, I think." 






S4 



THE LUCK OF THE tlOUSE, 






i \ 



'• I'here is'not much question as to whether that girl 
knew you. There was recognition in her eye, Mr. Jack, 
and a fine determination to have nothing more to do with 
you. Donalu ' — spurring her horse forward to her cou- 
sin's side — •' who was that girl in black who bowed to you 
just now ? " 

" Why, Miss Raeburn," said Donald, unsuspiciously. 
" The girl whom we met at Balmerino, don't you know, — 
the very day of her father's suicide. She's lost aU her 
money and has left Dundee — I didn't know she was in this 
part of the world." 

" Oh," said Lady Val. She shut her lips rather tightly, 
and kept a thoughtful silence for some^minutes ; then joined 
her friends in front. Hannin^ton was left in the rear, with 
a very sullen expression on his face. 

" Confound the girl ! " he said to himself. " I'd sooner 
that had happened before anybody rather than Val Gilde- 
roy. She does badger one so, and she is so abominably 
sharp. Vv'hat a fool I was not to pass her by as if I had 
never seen her in my life before 1 I would not have come 
this way if I had known that she was here. Mrs. Muir 
certainly told me that she had left Dunkeld. And really I 
should never have thought that Stella would show so much 
spirit 1 But it was deuced awkward for me, and I owe her 
a grudge for it. So look out, Miss Stella Raeburn ; for if 
I can do you a bad turn by way of paying you out one of 
these days, I shall do it. I generally do pay my debts in 
that Hne ; and by — I'll make you apologise or smart for it. 
You forget that I've got those pretty letters of yours at 
home. I'll keep them now." 

Meanwhile Stella, with flushed cheeks and rapidly beat- 
ing heart, was making her way at a very cjuick pace up 
the hilly road towards the point which she wished to reach. 
But she had forgotten all about her destination. She was 
conscious of nothing but the insult which, as she conceived 
it, Jo'iu Hannington had put upon her, and of the despe- 
rate upheaval of pride and bitter anger that had taken 
place within her heart. How dared he bow to her ? Did 
he think that she had taken his repulse so lightly that it 
was easy and possible for them now to meet as old acquain- 
tances ? He must think little of her, indeed ! 

Stella was too young to take such matters calmly. It 
would have been far better for her to treat Hannington as 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



55 



ether that girl 
eye, Mr. Jack, 
lore to do with 
ird to her cou- 
I bowed to you 

unsuspiciously. 

't you know, — 

I's lost alJ. her 

she was in this 

rather lightly, 
;es ; then joined 
n the rear, with 

r. " I'd sooner 

than Val Gilde- 

so abominably 

by as if I had 

not have come 

re. Mrs. Muir 

. And really I 

I show so much 

3, and I owe her 

laeburn ; for if 

you out one of 

ay my debts in 

: or smart for it. 

ers of yours at 

id rapidly beat- 
(juick pace up 
^^ished to reach. 
Ltion. She was 
s she conceived 
d of the despe- 
that had taken 
V to her ? Did 
3 lightly that it 
as old acquain- 
id! 

ers calmly. It 
Hannington as 




a casual acquaintance than to proclaim to all the world 
that she looked upon him as her enemy. Su( h an action 
on her part told her story to a clever woman like I,ady 
Val much more clearly than she or John Hannington ever 
tneant to tell it. But she was unconscious of her mistake. 
She was in a flaming heat of anger, mortification, and 
wounded feeling, and felt vindictively glad that she had 
had the chance of showing him that she no longer wished 
for his acquaintance. 

But anger and vindictiveness were not natural to her. 
cfore long her stei)s slackened, her color fell, her eyes 
began to fill with tears. She turned aside from the road, 
and scrambled a little way down the hillside along which 
t ran. The murmur of the Braan below was fuJl and strong 
jin her ears, but she did not notice it. She had forgotten 
11 about her desire to see the Hermitage Falls. She only 
Ranted to get down amongst the trees, to seat herself in 
^i^he heather and fern, lean her face on her hands, and cry 
• lier heart out. And that was what she did, " Oh, John, 
John I and I loved you so I " she whispered to herself. " If 
only I could forget you — for you are not worthy even of 
y love — but I never, never shall." 
" Never," the proverb says, " is a long day." But 
tella was thoroughly in earnest. She did not believe that 
ohn Hannington could ever be indifferent to her, or that 
he could ever love any man again. 
i Absorbed in her reflections, she had not heard the 
Jsound of footsteps on the road above the bank on which 
/^she sat. There had first been merry voices and steps not 
tb,x from her ; then these had died away. Next came a 
tall man of handsome face and stately bearing. He looked 
round him with a frown upon his brow ; he paused in his 
Walk several times, and when he saw Stella half-way down 
he hill-side, he made a step sideways, as if to turn in her 
"irection and address her. But a second glance caused 
im to change his mind. Her slender figure, in its closely- 
flitting black dress, had nothing remarkable about it ; even 
Jthe knot of golden hair, in which the sunbeams seemed to 
,.,be imprisoned beneath her black hat, did not attract his 
-attention very much, but as he looked, it became clear to 
him from the movement of her shoulders that the girl, 
whoever she was, was sobbing uncontrollably ; that the 
crouchina attitude was that of crief. and that the collie 





, -^MWIfMHwMatMiiiaMl 



I ; 





11 


)■ ■ 




H 


hi 




■ 


' \ r 




1 





ft run r.rcK or rnr nous p., 

\\\\k) Bi(n)(t brsidr \\v\ wiis wagging his Iftil rtiid trying to 
Hrk hfi \':\VK\ in ili.ii svinpjithy with Rorrow which intelH- 

?;ent {\tiiinj\ls ofun show townnU thrir nirtsters and thelf 
ncnds. Thi' grntlcnt.in lurniMl hastily nway, thankHil 
that hr \\A\\ n«>t intrudiMl ow her sohtmte. When he had 
gono sonu' liltK- <listnncc, s(>ino IciOing of remorse too* 
|>ossrRsi«)n ot him. Dnghl lie to have asked her if she 
wanted assistamc of any kind- ir she were ill or in pain ? 
•' Pooh," he thought to himself, as he strode on again, 
" my wits must W wandeting, to make me think of Ruch a 
thing. A won\an's tears ! Ihey «'ome easily entnigh. 
and mean little eno\igh, heaven knows ! She has had a 
»)\iarrel with her lover, perhaps ; or her vanity han bee'i 
wounded, or she is hysterii al over the ilealh of her canary 
bird ; or ** — a softer mood eoming over him — " «he is 
grieving over a (riend's death, poor soul ; and there 
!\ohody ean help her hut (iod. She wears a blaek dress ; 
mother or father dead, perhaps. A sad lot for the yoting ! " 
and he heaved a sigh, as if there were some personal refei 
em e in the wonls. " She may not he young, hy the l)ye, 
1 forgot that ! " he i-ontit\ued, with a half smile. " Slu' 
has hair like that girl (m hoard the llritannia last summei 
— curiously brilliant, without a toueh of red in it. 

• \\f\ Imir tlirtt Iny nliMig lipr l)Rck 
Wns yellow, like vipe corn, ' 

A cotnmoni^laee yoimg person, probably, seeing how she 
was letting that sramp ttantiington make love to her ; her 
yellow hair the only point of resetnblanee to ' the IdesseO 
Damo^el ' of the ])oem. Ihit, of course, this girl is not tho 
same. 1 wonder where those children have got to by this 
time ? It is natural, 1 suppose, that as I am an old fogey, 
they should give me the slip. Hark ! what was that ? " 

It was a shriek clear, piercing, and intense. On the 
still autumn air, sounds were carried to considerable dis 
tances. This cry came from the vicinity of the water — ul 
that the gentleman was s\ire. It was followed by an 
answering shout, meant to be reassuring, but dying away 
in a quaver of alarm. And there came another scream, 
unmistakably in a girl's voice. 

•• Molly ! " cried the gentleman in the road. " Not in 
the w.Uer, I trust ! (lod help us, if she is 1 " 

He rushed down the hillside, tearing his way with con- , 



;!*/?, 



77//? ftrcK' oT'' titr. ttotf^fi.. 



I> 



nil rtiul trying to 
ow which inlelll' 
iirtRlers and thelt 
y ftway, thftiikftil 
i. When he hftd 
; of remorse took 5,; 

rtsketl her if she 
cte ill «)r in pain ? 
e slKule on again, 
ne ihink of such a 
le easily eniuiBh. 
! She has had a 
I v.'iniiy has t)ee'i 
ealh of her canary 
rer him- "" she is 

soul ; and there 
!irs a Mack dress ; 
ol for the young ! " 
une personal refer 
'o\ing, by the t»ye, 
half smile. " She 
annia last summer 

red in it. 



)ly, seeing how shctr- 
kc love to her ; her 
ICC to ' the blessed 
, this girl is not thi 
have got to by this : 
\ I am an old fogcy/^ 
what was that ? ""^ 
intense. On the 
considerable dis 
ty of the water— of 
ls followed by an 
\g, but dying away 
c another scream, 




lerablt* rapidity ^hr^1n^h » liiinpM of gnrm« mikI bracken, 

d fjctween the yfinug strum ol the imder^rowlli^, townrds 

te place from whi« h he had IummI the cry. Ilie roaring 

the water sounded louder and lender in lii'< ear as he 

pw closer to the bar'* It was a dilln nit thing to get 

irkly to the water'sVdge, for the hillside was steep and 

ppery. ffe was below the falls, wliif h potired over the 

rks with the vehemence of a stre.im iti sp.ite, its yelifiw 

am scattering drops far and wide, its vohirne increased 

ifee-fold by the recent storms. A story ( rossed the man's 

ilnd as he made his way down the hill so ennufdiered 

the wild undergrowth that he could sc arcely see what 

« happening tmtil he was (lose u|)on the water of a 

ild's slip into the whirling, swirling pool at the fcjot of 

Hermitage Falls. No resctie hnd been possible, and 

child's body had been pic ked up bruised and battered, 

Si smooth water further down. Me shtiddered at the 
ought, as he brushed aside the branches ands tood by 
water's edge. What did he see ? 



CHAPiKR vrn. 



MONCRtKKF OF TORRKf^Mt/rft. 



ic road. " Not in 
lis!" 
his way with con 



A girl of fifteen years old -his own daughter Molly, as 

was very well aware — had rashly made her way from 

ukler to boulder until she stcjod close to the deep pool 

ich was well known to be the most dangerous spot in the 

iftly rushing little river. Evidently her nerve had given 

y at this very point ; the broken branch of a rowan tree 

ist above showed that she had clutc:hed at it, and that it 

snapped in her hands ; the fragments of a stick which 

used as a sort of alpenstock were already whirling 

wn the stream. She could not go forward ; she was 

aid to go back. Her body was half poised over the 

earn ; it swayed a little, as if she were dizzy, and an- 

:her frightened scream came from her white lips. Mean- 

hile a youth, somewhat older than herself, was hurrying 

ross the bridge from the other side, and calling to her to 

careful — not to move until he came to her help— not to 

«e her head. It was very plain that she had lost it 



*« 



THE LVCk OF THE HOVSE, 



already. Another moment without help and she would 
have fallen and been dashed against the stones. 

But help which Molly's father had not looked fo . was at 
hand. A slender figure in black, which he had seen 
already, was standing on the stones and holding out a 
parasol to the frightened girl. Stella had advanced as far 
as she could, and had not had time to feel alarmed until 
Molly clutched the parasol handle so violently that she 
almost lost her own balance. Then for a moment she did 
feel a qualm of fear, but she recovered herself instantly. 

" Steady ! " she said. " Don't jump. Step over ; it is 
not far. There ! you are on firmer ground now. Pass me 
and get to the bank." 

She held Molly's hand until the girl had passed her, but 
the unlooked-for apparition of her father gave Molly an- 
other fright. She started violently, and dragged Stella 
forward in rather a dangerous way. 

** Take care ! take care ! what are you doing ? " said the 
father. He handed her hastily to the stones near the 
bank, holding out his other hand at the same time to 
Stella. It was fortunate that he did so. For Molly's 
hasty movement had caused Stella to slip, and although 
she did not quite fall, one of her feet and part of her dress 
went into the water. If no one had been holding her, it 
would have been doubtful whether she could have recover- 
ed herself; but as it was, she clung desperately to the 
strong hand that clasped her own, and was carried rather 
than led to the safe pathway, where Molly now stood cry- 
ing. Her brother had arrived upon the scene panting, and 
white as a sheet with terror. 

'* Are you better? You have not hurt yourself?" said 
the gentleman, still supporting Stella with his arm. 

" Thank you, I am all right ; I was not hurt," she answer- 
ed. Then she looked at him and he looked at her, and both 
gave the very slightest possible start. He recognized her 
as the girl with golden hair on board the Britannia, and she 
remembered that John Hannington had named him to her 
as Alan Moncrieff of Torresmuir. The remembrance did 
more than anything towards bringing the color back to her 
lips. She was very white when he landed her, for her fright 
had been severe. 

Mr. Moncriefif raised his hat. " I cannot express my 
gratitude to you, madam," he said, in stiff, courteous ac- 



Ip and she would 
; stones. 

t looked fr . was at 
lich he had seen 
nd holding out a 
id advanced as far 
feel alarmed until 
violently that she 
a moment she did 
herself instantly. 
Step over j it is 
nd now. Pass me 

ad passed her, but 
jr gave Molly an- 
nd dragged Stella .^.^ 

.doing? " said the 
e stones near the fe 
the same time to 
so. For Molly's 
slip, and although 
d part of her dress 
en holding her, it 
ould have recover- 
iesperately to the 
was carried rather 
»lly now stood cry- 
scene panting, and 

irt yourself? " said 
th his arm. 
; hurt," she answer- 
Led at her, and both 
He recognized her 

Britannia, and she 
I named him to her 

remembrance did 
e color back to her 
d her, for her fright 

:annot express my 
stiff, courteous ac- 



THE LVCIt OF THE ffOlfSE. 



J^ 





cnts, through which his real emotion had some difficulty 
manifesting itself. " But for your presence of mind and 
mely help, my daughter would scarcely, I fear, have been 
cued from her very perilous position. We are indeed 
eply, most deeply, indebted to you. Molly " — a little 
rnly — " surely you have something to say ? " 
Molly gasped out a few unintelligible words, and Stella 
d to put a termination to the uncomfortable little scene. 
' I was very glad that I happened to be so near," she 
id. " I had really little to do — my parasol did more than 
and you kindly gave me your help at the end. It was 
thing at all." 

She inclined her head slightly and was about to move 
ay, when Moncrieflf hastily interpored. 
'-'^" Excuse me," he said, " but I see that you are exceed- 
' ly wet. May I ask if you have far to go? " 

tella looked with some embarrassment at her dress,which 
certainly clinging to her in a very unpleasant way. 
:p** Not SO very far; it does not matter at all," she said. 
^It will dry as I walk." 

r" May I ask if you are going to Dunkeld?" said Mr. 
ncriefT, with his resolute air of requiring an instant 
wer. 

" To St. Anselm's," said Stella. 

" St. Anselm's ? The house on the hill ? Four miles from 

e, I should think, is it not ? But you mast not go that 

4tktance in your present state ; I cannot possibly allow it." 

2" You'll come home with us, won't you?" interposed 

lly, breathlessly, drying her tears, and favoring Stella 

h a gaze of wide-eyed adoration. " We live very near. 

If Molly will allow me," said her father, with a dryness 

tone which made the girl shrink back with a frightened 

k, " I was about to propose that you should avail your- 

f of the fact that my house — Torresmuir — is tolerably 

r. My housekeeper will see that your — your things — are 

before you go home. Molly will be only too glad to have 
opportunity of doing you any small service in her power 
return for the great one that you have bestowed on us ; 
d, as for myself, I assure you that my house and all that 
contains are entirely at your disposal." 
Stella was inclined to smile at so much stateliness, which 
med to her like that of a Castilian don rather than that 




6o 



THE LUCK OP THE HOUSE, 






of a Scottish laird. But she liked his face, grave and stern | 
though it looked to her ; and she liked his children's faces.! 

Moreover, she knew something of him by report, and was! 
aware that she was in good hands. A long walk home with] 
these draggled garments clinging round her feet would b< 
uncomfortable and perhaps dangerous ; and — the thought 
flashed suddenly across her mind — she might possibly meet 
Mr. Hannington and his friends again on her way home,] 
and she could not bear the idea of their seeing her in this 
drowned-rat condition ! It was this consideration mor< 
than any other that induced her to accept Mr. MoncriefTsI 
offer, and to turn away from the waterfall with his party.! 

" I must beg leave to introduce myself," said Molly'sl 
father, with a smile that made his face singularly pleasant.} 
" My name is Alan Moncrieff — Moncrieffof Torresmuir- 
and this is my madcap daughter Molly, who deserves a 
good scolding for the fright she has given us. My son 
Bertie," he added, indicating the boy, who was standing 
at Molly's side. 

" And my name is Raeburn," said Stella, frankly. " I 
am staying with my aunt at Mrs. Sinclair's, at St. Anselm's 
the house on the hill." 

" You come from Dundee ? " said Moncrieff. inadver- 
tently, and then was angry with himself for saying it. He 
had been thinking only of her voyage in the Britannia, 
but he saw from her pained face that she imagined him 
to be alluding to the tragic death of her father, an account 
of which had, of course, appeared in every newspaper. 

" Yes," she said, rather sadly, " I come from Dundee." 

" What an idiot I am ! " said Alan Moncrieff to himself. 
" I ought not to have mentioned Dundee to her. Ah, that 
was why she was crying when I saw her on the hill-side ; 
poor girl, she has had enough to cry for 1 Her eyelids are 
reddened yet." 

The boy and girl had slunk on together, as if glad to be 
out of their father's hearing, and he took the opportunity 
of saying quietly : — 

" Let me tell you. Miss Raeburn, that I know your name, 
and that my father was well acquainted with your father 
in days gone by. Every one who knew Mr. Raeburn 
esteemed him most highly. I have never heard a man spoken 
of more warmly, and I have always had the greatest respect 
for him." 



JSE, 

e grave and stern 
is children's faces, 
by report, and was 
ng walk home with 
her feet would be 
and—- the thought^ 
light possibly meet 
on her way home, 
r seeing her m this 
consideration more 
ept Mr. MoncriefTs 
fall with his party, 
yself," said Molly's 
singularly pleasant. 
ieffofTorresmuir— 
Uy, who deserves a 
given us. My son 
•, who was standmg 

Stella, frankly. "I 
tair's,atSt. Anselms 

Moncrieff, inadver- 
;lf for saying it. He 
ge in the Britannia, 
It she imagined him 
er father, an account 
every newspaper, 
come from Dundee. 
Moncrieff to himself, 
ndee to her. Ah, that 

her on the hill-side ; 

for 1 Her eyelids are 

rether, as if glad to be 
'took the opportunity 

[lat I know your name, 
inted with your father 
o knew Mr. Raeburn 
^er heard a man spoken 

lad the greatest respect 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



6i 



The manner in which the words were uttered — simple, 

affected, sincere — was more flattering to Stella's love 

r her father than even the words themselves. She tried 

thank him, but could only raise her eyes, Kwimming in 

rs, for a moment to his face by way of answer. He 

lieved her by stepping on in front, as if to clear some 

se branches out of her way ; and the moments of 

ence and reflection that his action gave her restored her 

calmness before she had reached the road, v/here Molly 

d Bertie awaited them. 

" If you will allow me. Miss Raeburn," said Mr. Mon- 
leff, " I will go on to the house and tell Mrs, Greg that 
u are coming. I can walk faster, perhaps, than you 
, and she will make any preparations that are neces- 
y before you arrive. Come, Bertie." 
Be set off, almost without waiting for an answer; and 
Ua felt exceedingly grateful for his consideration. The 
^Hiilging of the wet gown round hex ankles impeded her 
ji>^giess, and she could manage it more easily when she 
walking with a girl like Molly than with two gentle- 
n. As soon as father and son were a few yards in 
ance, Molly began to chatter, as seemed her usual 
_ tom. 

^** What should I have done if you had not come up ? 
]^hould have certainly fallen in and been drowned. Oh, 
il^was dreadful ! Thank you so much for helping me out, 
|g|d I am so sorry you got wet. I ought to have said so 
^fbre, but I never can say anything when papa is there, 
ow he will scold me fearfully when you are gone." 
he pouted as she spoke, like a naughty child, although 
was as tall as Stella and very well developed for her 
She was exceedingly pretty in a certain style. Her 
tures were not perfect, but her complexion was exquis- 
!, though suggestive, by its very brilliance, of some deli- 
y of constitution ; her hazel eyes were wild and bright, 
her hair — hazel-brown, with threads of ruddy gold in it 
anced and waved over her shoulders in marvellous prb- 
lon. Her brother had more regularity of feature ; he 
long and weedy, and rather sickly-looking ; but he 
y wanted health to make him very like his father, 
ich Molly certainly was not. Her dress was untidy, 
Ua noticed ; it was torn in more than one place, and 
ined in others ; her hat had a broken brim, her shoe- 



m 



'HI 




I' 



\r' 



1 1 



6a 



TffE LVCK OF THE HOUSE. 



lace was loose, and her hands'were glovcless. She looked 
anything but what she was — the daughter of a man of no 
inconsiderable fortune, position, and attainments. 

" What made you venture out so far ? " Stella inquired. 

" Oh, just for fun ! Bertie said I daren't j and I said I ^ 
would. I know papa's in an awful rage." 

" But you might have been drowned. I hope that you 
will not do it again, will you ? " 

Stella's gentle tones chased away the cloud [that had 
been gathering over Molly's face. 

" I won't, if you ask me not," she said, heartily. " But 
if papa had lectured me, I would. Only, after all, he 
never lectures ; it's uncle Ralph who does all that. Papa 
only looks at me." 

Stella thought it wisest to change the conversation, and 
drew Molly into a lively discussion of the beauties of Lad- 
die compared with her dog, Bran — a discussion which 
lasted until the gates of Torresmuir were reached. 

The house was large, fantastically gabled, and of pic- 
turesquely different heights. The gardens were laid out 
in terraces, for the ground was too uneven for any large 
level space to be available for lawn or flower-bed. A 
gravelled terrace before the door, bordered with an orna- 
mental wall, afforded one of the loveliest distant views 
that Stella had ever seen. She could not resist stopping 
to look at it, in spite of her wet clothes. 

" Yes, it is pretty," said Molly, with an air of proprietor- 
ship. " The river winding in and out is so lovely, isn't it ? 
Why, you can see ever so many miles — right away towards 
the Pass of Killiecrankie. Papa can tell you the names 
of the hills better than I can. Doesn't Craig-y-Bams look 
beautiful from here? There's papa making signs from 
the window, and here is Mrs. Greg \ so will you come 
in?" 

Stella had no reason to complain of her treatment. She 
was taken to a luxurious bedroom, where a fire, hot water, 
warm towels, and various articles of clothing awaited her, 
and Mrs. Greg was eager in offers of assistance. Stella 
put on a skirt of Molly's — it was quite long enough for 
her — and Mrs. Greg promised to send her own back to St. 
Anselm's as soon as it was dried. And when she was 
ready to depart, as she thought, Molly conducted her, 
almost by force, to the drawing-room, where tea had been 



THE LUCK OF TllE'JlOUSE. 



63 



't : and I said I 



prepared, and where Mr. Moncrieff and hi*? sonawaited 
her. 

They all made much of Stella. They waited upon her 
AS if she had been a princess ; it seemed as if they could 
[not do enough for her. In fact, her sweet face and golden 
iair had quite fascinated the young people ; and the fas- 
[cination extended itself to Alan Moncrieff as well. He 
[thought he had never seen a lovelier face than that of 
)oor Matthew Raeburn's daughter. 

Stella was sorry, however, to see that his eye grew stern 
md cold when it rested on Molly, and that the child 
ihrank away from him as if she knew that she was "'n 
lisgrace. A whisper from Bertie to his sister had already 
raught the visitor's ear. " He's in a fearful wax because 
didn't take care of you. Says we both ought to be sent 
bed like babies ; 2cA that you're to go to school next 
reek." At which Molly's face assumed an aspect of great 
ribulation. 

" I think I must really go now," said Stella, at last. " It 
rill be nearly dark when 1 reach home ; so I must make 
kaste." 

" The carriage is waiting, if you insist on leaving us so 
loon," said Mr. Moncrieff courteously. " Bertie, run down 
md tell Macgregor to drive round. I could not think of 
Kir walking all that distance, MisL Raeburn, after your 
[pcriences this afternoon. You must allow mc to have 
le pleasure of sending you home." 

Stella protested, but in vain. The carriage, drawn by 
ro magnificent bay horses, was at the door ; and Mont- 
rieff put her in with his stateliest air, and a few words of 
(eartfelt thanks, which she felt redeemed the stateliness. 
le wished that she could plead for Molly, who was 
idently under her father's displeasure, but she hardly 
|new how far she might venture to go. She did say, 
^ )wever, w.th a pleading glance — 
;pt " And your daughter has promised never to be so rash 
•gain." 

;" " I am glad to hear it," said Moncrieff, understanding 
^^rfectly well the meaning of that gentle speech. " If she 
las promised, I know she will keep her word, and so I 
jeed not be angry with her, need I ? " He smiled and 
It his hand affectionately on Molly's shoulder as the 
Irriage rolled away, and Stella was pleased to feel that 
»e had won Molly's pardc \ before she went. 






64 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



The drive did not seem long to her. She had much to 
think of, but her thoughts were by no means so melancholy 
as they had been that afternoon. The timely help that 
she had given to Molly, the deferential courtesy shown by 
Mr. Moncrieff the sight of the quaint, beautiful old house, 
which she hau scarcely had time to look at and admire — 
these things occupied her thoughts. It was quite a shock 
. to meet once more the riding party that she had encoun- 
tered in the afternoon, because it brought her thoughts back 
to a domain which, for the time being, they had left ; but 
the shock was not very terrible. She turned away and 
caressed Laddie, who sat on the rug beside her, and 
hoped that in the gathering twilight they had not recog- 
nized her face. But they had. 

" Wonders will never cease," said Lady Val, looking 
back. "That's the Moncrieff carriage. Moncrieff of 
Torresmuir, the proudest man you ever knew, sending 
the little Dundee girl home in his barouche ! What does 
that mean, 1 wonder ? " 

" You can ask him to-night. He is going to the 
Maxwells' to dinner," said Hannington, rather ill-temper- 
edly. He knew that Lady Val was going too. 

" I will," said the lady, briskly. And she was as good 
as her word. 

"Oh, Mr. Moncrieff," she said, later in the evening, 
looking with secret admiration at the face of the grave 
stately man who was standing near her ; *• do tell mi. 
— don't you know a Miss Raeburn who is staying in thi 
neighborhood ? " She had not the faintest idea where 
Stella was staying ; she drew her bow at a venture. 

"She saved my little girl's life this afternoon," sak 
Monciieff; and then he told her the story of Molly's 
ei.'^j,pade. 

" What a monkey your Molly is ! Full of life anj 
spirit ! " f 

" Too much so, I am afraid. I mu.st either send her ti 
school, or find a governess for her." 

" I have an inspiration," cried Lady Val. " Why don 
you get Miss Raeburn herself to tame poor Molly's wiL 
spirit ? " 

" Miss Raeburr. herself? But — would she " 

" She hasn't a ])enny, and I heard that she was lookii 
out for a situation some time ago," said Lady Va^, wi 




THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



65 



" I believe that you 
Moncrieff. I really 



her usual carelessness about facts, 
would be doing her a service, Mr 
do." 

" Is she competent ? " Moncrieff asked, quietly. 

" Can you look at her face and doubt it ? " 

He smiled and shook his head. 

" Well, I'll tell you one thing. I was in the post office 
to-day, and I saw a vvritten notice, setting forth that a 
young lady in Dunkeld wanted to give lessons in French, 
German, music, and all the etceteras. Perhaps that is 
Miss Raeburn ? You might follow it up and find out. 
The initials given were S. R. — I'm sure of that." 

Mr. Moncrieff said that he thought it unlikely that Miss 
Raeburn would condescend to teach his little girl, and 
changed the subject. 

It was odd that he could not get rid of a few lines from 
ithe poem, which he had previously quoted to himself that 
[afternoon anent Stella's golden hair. 

'* Her eyes were deeper than the depth 

Of waters stilled at even ; 
She had three lilies in her hand, 

And the stars in her hair were seven." 

They were appropriate, he thought, to no woman upon 
earth. And yet there was a sense in which a good woman 
light be, to any man, " a blessed damozel " indeed. Was 
Jtella Raeburn one of these " elect ladies " of the land ? 



CHAPTER IX. 



,t either send her ti 



molly's GOVERNESS. 

DY Val had been right. It was Stella indeed who 

,s advertising her qualifications as a teacher; and, 

^though Mr. Moncrieff gave no sign of acceptance of 

* ly Val's suggestion, he made a mental note of it. And 

the following afternoon he walked down to the Post 

ce in order to make inquiries. He went alone, but 

,t was no unusual thing. Fond as he was of his children, 

could not adapt himself to them; his manner was 

tere and cold, and the gravity which really arose from 

5 




%, 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 




a profound melancholy looked very much like severity. 
Molly was openly and vexatiously afraid of him ; her 
tongue would fall silent, her movements become awkward 
if he were near ; and Bertie, although he controlled his 
hands and feet better than did his hoydtnish sister, was 
apt to be seized with fits of shyness and timidity which 
would have been excessively painful to a loving and obser- 
vant father. But perhaps Alan Moncrieff was not very 
observant ; and, if he were of a loving disposition, he kept 
the fact a secret from all but a chosen few. 

In answer to his questions, he was furnished with the 
address of the lady who wanted pupils. As he expected, 
it was — 

Miss Stella Raebiirn^ 

Care of Mrs. Sinclair, 

St. Ajtselm^s, 

Dunkeld. 
He folded up the paper on which the words were written 
in Stella's clear, pretty handwriting, and put it in his 
pocket. Then he strode out into the street again, and, 
after a few moments' reflection, decided that it would be 
as well if he paid a call at St. Anselm's that very afternoon. 
He knew Mrs. Sinclair slightly, and it would seem natural 
enough that he should call to inquire after Miss Raeburn j 
when she had rendered him so signal a service yesterday. 
He need not say anything about the teaching unless he 
had an opportunity. In fact, he felt conscious that ai 
rather difficult task lay before him ; for Miss RaeburnJ 
being, as he could see, both proud and sensitive, might 
fancy that he was offering her a post out of mere gratitude 
whereas, Mr. Moncrieff impatiently told himself, gratitude] 
had nothing to do with it. 

He made his way up the hill-side, by the grassy road 
which led from the highway past the gates of St. Anselm'J 
and over the hill. Before he reached the gates he conf 
gratulated himself on his good fortune. There was Mis>;.''; 
Raeburn herself, walking slowly along the road, with .C-, 
book in ?ier hand. As she neared him, he could not hel 
remarking that she v/as sweeter-lcoking than ever. He 
face was not now white and disfigured with tears as it ha. 
been on the previous day ; there was a slight, delicaij 
bloom on the fair cheeks, and the serious eyes were limpii 
and clear like those of a child. It would be impossible tj 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



67 



associate deceit with those candid eyes — that was the 
thought that crossed Mr. Moncrieff' s mind at the sight of 
Stella ; double-dealing, concealment of any kind, could 
never be the characteristics of a woman with that pure 
and honest-looking face. The thought was somewhat 
wrtz/and unsophisticated for a man of Alan Moncrieffs 
knowledge of the world, but he harbored it, nevertheless, 
and took a sort of pleasure in the conviction of Stella's 
truth. 

He shook hands with her, and told her that he intended 
caUing upon Mrs. Sinclair and Miss Jacquetta Raeburn, 
,but evinced no special disappointment when told that these 
jladies were out driving with Mr. Sinclair. 

" And you have not accompanied them ?" he said kindly. 
[Stella could not help feeling that he spoke and looked at 
Iher as if she were a child. 

No ; she preferred walking instead of driving. 
"You are very fond of walking?" he said, pacing along 
)y her side, as she turned towards the gate. 

" Oh, very. I like my half-dozen miles a day when I 
:an get them." 

" But that must have been difficult when you were 
ibroad ? " said Mr. Moncrieff, pausing at the gate as if he 
lid not want to enter the grounds. Stella perceived the 
lesitation. 

"There was an English teacher with whom I used to 
ralk," she replied. " We did a great deal of sight-seeing 
Brussels. Will you come in, Mr. Moncrieff? Mrs. 
Rnclair is sure to be home almost immediately, and she 
till be so grieved if I have not offered you a cup of tea." 
"Thank you, but I am afraid I must not wait. Miss 
leburn — excuse me — is it true that you want pupils ? 
[y question sounds abrupt ; but our time may be limited, 
id I heard that you were anxious to teach if you could 
id scholars." 

1" Yes, but I do not think that I shall find them here," 

Hd Stella. " They tell me that I must go to Glasgow or 

hnburgh, or even London ! " and she sighed at the pros- 

Jct, and looked at the purple hills with eyes that seemed 

idy to fill with tears. 

We rnight perhaps find you a pupil or two nearer 

^me," said Mr. Moncrieff. What a caressing intonation 

voice could take ! — and yet she still felt as if he were 



68 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



talking to her as a child. " You know French and German 
very well, 1 dare say ? " 

"Yes. I think so. And I can sing and play," said 
Stella. 

" But, perhaps, in your long residence abroad you have 
forgotten all your English ? I am taking the privilege of 
age, you see, and putting you through quite a catechism ; 
I hope you will forgive my doing so." 

" I am very glad to be questioned," said Stella, with 
downcast eyes, "rf scarcely know what I can teach and 
what I cannot. I had some practice in teaching at 
Madame Beauvais', however; for I used to beg to hel]> 
with the little ones, I loved them so much. And my 
English — I dare say it has fallen behind, because 1 ha\c 
not had many English lessons since I left school at 
Dundee ; and I was only thirteen years old then. I ust-d 
to read history and literature with an old English clergy- 
man in Brussels, and he lent me books — but that was all." 
" Books ! What kind of books ? Novels ?" 
"''Oh, no," said the girl, shaking her head. "I havel 
read only Scott's novels and one or two of Thackeray's in 
my life. No; Mr. Morris made me read Gibbon andj 
Hume, and Arnold and Mommsen, and Grote and Macau 
lay, and a great deal of old English literature — Chaucerl 
and the poets, you know — and he taught me Latin, too] 
and some mathematics, but not much." 

She paused, for Mr. Moncrieff was regarding her witl 
an interest not unmingled with amusement. " I think,'| 
he said, presently, " that you have been exceedingly we!i 
educated. Miss Raeburn." 

" I am afraid that I know very little." 
" You have laid a good foundation. I should be glad 
my little girl, Miolly, was likely to know as much at youj 
age ! Will you consent to give her some lessons and tcdc| 
her as you yourself have been taught?" 

" Your daughter, Mr. Moncrieff? But she is much to| 
old for me — I wanted to teach little childrcxi only," sai(| 
Stella, coloring up to the eyes in much confusion. 

"She could not have a better teacher," Mr. Moncrici 
said, calmly. " She has had many disadvantages, and 
should be glad to see her in wiser hands than mine." 

As Stella did not speak — for she was quite too mi;( | 
overcome by the prospect before her to be able to say verj 



The luck of the house. 



^ 



;h and German 



garding her with| 
lent "I think, 
exceedingly well 



much — Mr. Moncrieff continued, in his distinct low tones, 
with an occasional pause which made what he said addition- 
ally impressive. 

" She has run wild of late years. She has no mother, 
no friend or sister to influence her. ... I have had 
governesses, but they have left her in despair. She will 
not learn, she will not submit, unless she has a real regard 
for the person set over her. . . . She has taken a 
great fancy to you, if I may say so. Miss Raeburn, and 
with you would be, I believe, perfectly amenable to author 
ity. ... If you would help us 1 should be gratefu?, 
indeed ; almost as grateful even," he said, with a sudden, 
I fla-shing smile, that wholly changed the character of his 
face, "as when you gave the child your hand across the 
stones and saved her from oeing whirled down the river to 
Iher death." 

" If I could do anything for her, I should be only too 
jlad," said Stella, earnestly. The two were still standing 
)eside the gate ; Stella on one side, with her back to the 
listant view of Dunkeld, Moncrieff on the other, his arm 
[•esting on the topmost bar of the white wooden gate. " If 
mly," she said, looking straight into her companion's face, 
if only I did not fancy that you were asking this simply 
kt of a feeling — a fancy — that I had rendered you some 
(ttle service, and that you ought to repay me ! " 

** Do you think that I should si :rifice my daughter's 
Iducation to a fancy of that kind ? ' said he, looking back 
|t her as straight-forwardly as she had looked at him. 
No, Miss Raeburn, I am not so unselfish. I ask you to 
pach my Molly, because I have never met any one who is 
":ely, I think, to influence her more directly for good than 
m." 

" But how can you know that ? " asked Stella, simply. 

He felt tempted to answer, " By your face ; " but 

bounced the saying, feeling that he must not derogate 

10 much from his dignity as Molly's father. So he replied, 

lite soberly, " I have some reason for knowing," and pro- 

kded to the consideration of hours and terms. He 

Lilted a governeiis for Molly from ten to four o'clock, 

[eluding an hour for exercise in the middle of the day, 

id a sufficient time for dinner. He proposed that Stella 

id her aunt should take lodgings in Dunkeld — there 

;re rooms to be had not more than a mile and a half 



( ; 



I 



70 



TlfE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



from Torresmuir — and he promised to send a conveyance 
for her every morning when rain was falling, or the roads 
were heavy, and at night when the days were short or the 
weaiher was bad. This consideration he thought due to 
his daughter's teacher ; but when he came to the question 
of i)ecuniary remuneration, Stella found him liberal indeed, 
but not lavish ; he was guided by common sense and a 
wish to have value for his money, which earned her heart- 
felt approbation. She had no wish <Ao feel that he was 
paying her more than she was worth because she had 
pulled Molly out of the water below the Hermitage Falls. 

The two had therefore a plain, sensible, business-like, 
little chat, in whic'i Mr. Moncrieffs respect for Stella's 
capacities was increased tenfold. He left her at last with 
the understanding that she would talk over the matter 
with her Aunt Jacky, and that if Aunt Jacky did not 
object the new arrangement should l)egin as soon as the 
Sinclairs left Dunkeld. And the time for their departure 
was drawing so near that Stella felt sure that she 
would set to work with Molly early in November. For 
Aunt Jacky never objected long to anything that Stella 
really wished. 

Mr. Moncrieff quitted her at last, and strode away 
down the lane towards the high-road once more. Here, 
as he trod the shady path, his attention was arrested by 
the appearance of a man who loitered along the road 
before him. This man was rather undersized, lean, and 
of a pallid complexion ; as Moncrieff neared him, a hand 
some, sallow face, with Jewish features and a great black 
moustache was suddenly turned upon him. 

"Why, Ralph," said the Laird of Torresmuir, stopping! 
short, and looking in unfeigned surprise at his late wife's] 
step-brother — a man who for many years had made Tor- 
resmuir his home — " I did not know that you often camej 
this way." 

" I don't," said Ralph Kingscott, with an easy laugh] 
'' But I happened to turn in this direction to day. I don'tf 
know why. It is a pleasant walk." 

He did not mention that he had been tracking Alan's] 
steps all the afternoon, or that he was in a state of con , 
cealed rage at the bare thought that any matter of import] 
ance had been transacted without his help. 

" I've been at St. Anselm's," said Moncrieff, after 



'THE LUCJ^ OF THE HOUSE. 



It 



little pause ; " and I have engaged Miss Racburn to teach 
Molly every day from ten to tour." 

" The devil you have ! " exclaimed Mr. Kingscott, in 
his heart. But he did not say the words aloud. 



CHAPTER X. 

" GONE IS THE LUCK OF EDENHALL." 



'' 11 



Molly's first greeting of her new governess was raptu- 
rous. She was waiting in the drawing-room when Miss 
Racburn was announced, and she cast a demure glance 
at the door so as to be sure that her father was not imme- 
diately behind. Finding that he did not appear, she 
cast demureness to the winds, rushed at Stella and em- 
braced her frantically, then danced round her with such 
[evident delight that Stella was amused and surprised. 

" You dear, delicious thing ! " cried Molly. " How 

[awfully good it is of you to teach me ! I never thought 

Ithat anything half so good could ever happen. My other 

jovernesses have been such frighfully strict, frumpy ola 

things ! " 

" 1 shall be strict too, I forewarn you," said Stella, 
smiling. 

" You couldn't I " said Molly, positively. " With that 
bvely golden hair and those sweet blue eyes of yours you 
puldn't know how — now would you.-* I am sure you 
'ill never, never be cross and disagreeable." 

" 1 hope not, Molly. But I shall want you to be good 
jnd do v/hat I tell you," said Stella, taking the girl's hands, 
id looking earnestly into the dancing, frolicsome dark 
res. 

" Oh, yes, I'll be good. I've promised. Papa gave me 
[most awful lecture about you this very morning. He 
^ys if I'm not good with you, he'll send me away to the 
jry strictest school he can find. And I'm to copy you 
everything, and try to be like you. That's what he 
^id — oh, and he was sorry he couldn't be here, but 

had to go to Edinburgh, and I'm very glad ! " 
I" Molly, should you say that, dear ? " 

I can't help it ; I am very glad. Papa is so grave ai)d 



'< ' I 



7« 



THE lire a: of the tiovsn. 



so awful. We arc all imich livelier when lie is oulortlic 
way. lOven UUcie Kalph enjoys himsell when |>apa's in 
Kdinbuigh ; he lets herlie oil* hail his lessons, and gors 
to sleep in ihc al'lernoon. Will you eonu* down lo llu' 
sehoolroom, dear Miss Raeburn, and shall 1 show you 
where lo put your hat and cloak ? " 

Slella was led olThy the <hattering Molly, and found it 
rather dilhcult t») induce the young lady to settle down to 
her hooks that forenoon. At twelve o'clock the two were toj 
have ^"-one for a walk, but a dash of heavy rain against tlu;j 
vvir*vs put walking out of the (piestion. So Molly ])r()- 
}'0*m:'« 'o show her new tViend over the house, some parts! 
i; ' 'c i^ were very well worth seeing; and Stella willingiyj 
agreed t nything that her pupil suggested. 

Torresniuir was partly an old and |)artly a new huildiug.j 
The older ])ortion was built of thick and solid stone ; the 
tower atone end was of masonry, which seemed as if ill 
would defy the flight of time for centuries, so cunnini^lyj 
had the great stones l)een welded together. This towci 
was little used except by Mr. Ralph Ringscott, who, aj 
Molly informed Miss Raeburn, occupied two rooms, oiu 
above another, in this i)art of the building. '* You sil) 
it's very awkwardly placed," said Molly, with a leakiRij 
air. ** When you leave the newer part of the house yoij 
go through this long gallery — a i)assa.ge ; it is only a p;is 
sage, after all ; then you come straight into the ()cta^(J 
Room, which Uncle Ralph has made into a regular cm ioj 
ity sliop j then straight from the Octagon Room into In 
sitting-room, which looks out on tlie hillside and do«j 
towards the Hraan. 'J'his winding stair, in the little sp.n 
between »h.e Octagon Room and the sitting-room, leads iij 
to Uncle Ralph's bedroom, and to another room that m 
body ever uses ; and above that there is a roof where oi| 
has a most beautiful view — Init we scarcely ever go ii| 
because Uncle Ralph does not seem to care about m 
coming farther than the Octagon Room — if so far. It is 
great shame," said Molly, in an aggrieved tone, " becaiij 
the tower would make such a nice little retreat for l!ci 
and me. One can't hear a single sound from these romii 
in the new part of the house. J3ut Uncle Ralph keeps 
out." 

" He has grown fond of his rooms, I daresay," sai 
Stella. . w^; ■ - 



TItE LUCK OF rill: IIOUSI:. 



73 



ssons, aiul gors 
,u. down U» ^'^^ 

Ulll I H»H)W you 



l\y, and found il 
^o seUlc down K- 
,k Ihc uvo were to 
rain aganist Uu; 
[, So MoUy V'" 
house, some IKUts 
nd Stella w»Unit;ly 

Ued. . ., ,• I 

Hyanew \)Vuldin^;J 

kI solid stone ;du' 
•h seemed as li U 
ries, so eunn.nuly 
..thcr. 'I'lustoNVc 
l^lngseott, who, 
il two roon\s, 



e 



You 



ontj 
sell 



re 



ildinp;. 

,Uy, with a leatna 

vrtoHhe house yoii 

e • it is only a pav 
ht into the OcAuKoi 
into a regular cm. nv 

agon Room intc> 1 

hillside and do^^ 

ur, in the litt^lc sv;. 

ng-room, leads \ 

.other room that ii 

r is a roof where oi 

;carcely ever go ^^ 

to care about o 

^,„,_if so far. His 

1 tone' " bei-aii 
cved tone, 

ttle retreat for l>ui 
lund from vhese roo. 
Uncle Ralph keer 

:)oms, I daresay; 



)S 



" T don't think he is very fond ofanytliinj^," Molly an- 
swered, with a curious loii(h or(yni( ism in her fresh yo\ing 
voice, " l)iit it is convenient for him, I daresay, to l»c 
uhle to ^o in and out just as he likes. There is a Httk; 
door from his sitting-room into th(! garden, and |)aj)a 
never knows wiien he is otit after midnight or not." 

Stella thought this sort of conversation nndesirahlc, and 
changed it hy asking the names ofcertain ( uriosities which 
were ranged in glass cases on some side tables in the Oc- 
[tagon Room. 

Pretty, aren't they ? " said Molly, carelessly, as she 
an over the names with the air of one who had often 
chearsed them jjreviously ; "but this is the most curious 
hing. Do you see that emjjty case ? " 

Stella looked, and observed that a large morocco r,«isc 

ined with velvet stood em|>ty under a glass s' d»'. 

" There's a story about it," snid Molly. " i x lembcr 

hen it used to hold a stotie — a l)eautiful cry -il, clicvc, 

)arkling with all the colors of the rainlx ' '. It was in 

e days before mannna died," and a sudden s' wlow came 

er her merry face. 

** Was it stolen ? " Stella asked, to brea. ' ;^ pause that 
llowed. 

" That's the odd part of it. Of(^oursc it was, but there 
as no way of finding out how or why. Just before 
amma died it disappeared. And you have no idea what 
fuss the old servants in the house, and even papa him- 
If, made about it. It was very ridiculous ! " 
*• Was it valuable?" 

** Not a bit, I believe. Only — do you remember a piece 
poetry called * The Luck of Kdenhall ? " 
*' Yes ; Longfellow translated it from the German." 
" Well, there was just such another old story about this 
ne and our fam.ily. It was said to have been brought 
m the East l)y one of our ancestors ; and as long as it 
,s in our possession we were to be lucky in every way, 
" when it went the luck was to go too. And now it has 
cl" 

* And the luck remains," said Stella, smiling at the girl's 
f-tragical tone. 

* I suppose so. But I don't know. Nothing has gone 
[ht since — nothing. Of course, it has nothing to do 
h thq stone ; I am not so stupidly superstitioi;^ as poor 



74 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



old Jean, our nurse, used to be ; but still — ever since — we 
liave been unhappy — I don't know why " 

The tears were filling Molly's beautiful hazel eyes. 
Stella looked sympathisingly at her, and took her hand, 
meaning to give the child some gentle advice respectinj^ 
her own share in producing the happiness of her home, 
when an interruption occurred. The inner door of the 
Octagon Room, leading to the staircase, flew open, and 
Mr. Kingscott made his appearance. He paused, as if in 
surprise, at the sight of the two girls, and Stella, who had 
not seen him before, glanced inquiringly at Molly. But 
Molly pouted, frowned, threw back her mop of ruddy 
golden hair, and did not seem inclined to speak. 

" I must introduce myself, as my niece does not seem 
inclined to perform the office for me," said Ralph Kings- 
cott, showing his white teeth in a smile which Stella found; 
singularly unpleasant. " My name is Kingscott, Missi 
Raeburn — I think I have the pleasure of speaking to Miss 
Raeburn ^ — and I have the honor to be Miss Molly's] 
uncle, as well as the tutor of my nephew, Bertie. Oui 
office should bring us together. We must have somethinj 
in common, must we not? " 

Stella only bowed ; the man's maimer did not attract 
her, and she felt it impossible to do anything but lool 
serious and dignified. 

" So you have been looking at our pour little curiosj 
ities ? " said Mr. Kingscott, easily. "And has Molly beei^ 
explaining to you the loss of the luck of the house ? " 

" It can't be explained," said Molly, almost rudel)| 
" Nobody knows." 

" And nobody ever will know," said her uncle, in 
mocking tone. " Nobody will ever know — unless th< 
Luck of the House comes back again, and that will not 
in your time or mine. ' Gone is the Luck of EdenhallJ 
as the poem says." 

" I believe you've got it ! " cried Molly, so savagely tb 
Stella stood aghast. " If you stole it and hid it away — o| 
purpose to vex papa ! " She bit her lip and the tears agaii 
dimmed her flashing eyes. " You would not mind — yol 
know you don't care whether things are right or wrong — I'v] 
heard you say so — if only they are pleasant." 

" Molly, dear, you must not speak in thai way, " saij 
Stella, in alarm. " I hope you will excuse her, Mr. Kim 
scott " 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



75 



•ever since — we 

ful hazel eyes. 

took her hand, 

Ivice respecting 

s of her home, 

icr door of the 

flew open, and 

paused, as if in 

Stella, who had 

at Molly. Int 

• mop of ruddy 

speak. 

does not seem 

lid Ralph Kings- 

vhich Stella found 

Kingscott, Miss 

[speaking to Miss 

be Miss Molly's] 

lew, Bertie. Our" 

ist have something 

^r did not attract 
anything but lool 

pour little curiosl 
^nd has Molly been" 

f the house ? " 

ly, almost rudeljl 

lid her uncle, in 
know— unless th| 
and that will not 
Luck of Edenhall] 

,Uy, so savagely tha 
and hid it away— oj 
p and the tears agai 
)uld not mind— yo 
right or wrong— l^f 

sasant. ' 

in thai way," saij 
ccuse her, Mr. Kmi 



Ralph Kingscott gave a short l-iiigh and turned on his 
heel. But the monienlary whitening of his lips, the keen, 
steel-like glance that he sliot at Molly from out his narrow 
dark eye, showed that iicr shaft had, !n some way or another, 
gone straight home. " I can afford to despise Molly's 
tempers. Miss Raeburn, " he said as he went back to his 
own apartment, " but I don't envy you the task of 
encountering them." 

Poor Stella did indeed at that moment feel as if her 
task wv,.e likely to be heavier than she had anticipated. 
She tried to talk seriously, and yet gently, to her pupil 
about her behavior, but Molly turned rather sulky at the 
first hint of reproof, and did not recover her good humor 
until late in the afternoon. 

Mr. Moncrieff stayed for some days in Edinburgh, and 
Stella had thus no opportunity of consulting him, as she 
had wished to do, about the plan of siudy which Molly was 
to pursue. After the first day or two, she found the girl 
tolerably easy to manage. The great difficulty lay in the 
fact that, while Molly had the physitpie of a woman, she 
had the spirits, the thoughtl«^f:sness, the waywardness of a 
child. SteMa had a rather startling example of the difficul- 
ties which were to be encountered in dealing with such a 
character soon after her introduction to the Moncrieffs. 

It was the second Saturday after Stella's duties had 
begun. Mr. Moncrieff was still away from home. Satur- 
day was "a whole holiday;" but as the day proved still 
and fine, Molly and her brother (who was quite as much 
enamored of Miss Raeburn as was Molly herself) came 
to her lodgings, and begged that she would join them in 
an excursion that they were about to make to the Lochs of 
the Lowes. It seemed that they knew most of the owners 
'of the mansions on the banks of the different lochs, and, 
save when the rights of fishing and boating were let to 
summer tenants of the houses, the young Moncriefifs had 
^always been allowed to disport themselves as they pleased 
upon the waters. At present, Molly who had met with 
the name of the Admirable Crichton in her lessons, was 
anxious to show Stella the very place where that prodigy 
[of learning had been born ; and it was with this laudable 
object in view that she at last perouaded her teacher to 
join her for the day. 

She had brought a pony carriage to the door, and 



ill 



76 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



begged hard that Miss Jacky would come too ; but Miss 
Jacky stoutly refused, on the plea that she would ** take her 
death" if she went out in a boat. Rut Stella started 
with her young friends : Molly driving and flourishing her 
whip in fine fashion ; and Bertie lying back on the cush- 
ions, and talking in a lazy but intelligent way to Miss 
Raeburn. It was eleven o'clock when they set off; and 
Molly exjilained that she had brought luncheon, and 
that they would j)ut the jjony up at a farmhouse, row out 
to the island, and eat their luncheon in the shadow of the 
very building where the Admirable Crichton had been 
born. Stella assented merrily enough — knowing little, 
however, of the i)lace, and not quite i)repared for the 
adventure which s.'iC was expected to pass through. 

The first part of the programme was accomplished sat- 
isfactorily enough. The i)ony and carriage were left at 
the farmhouse, and the trio walked up a long road and 
across a meadow, which brought them to the very edge of 
one of the prettiest of all the Lochs of the Lowes. 1lY\q 
clear water was unruffled by a breeze, and reflected 
an exi)anse of cloudless sky; but the distant hills had 
the curious distinctness of outline and hue generally con- 
sidered to be indicative of rain. In the centre of the 
clear water stood the little grassy island with its ruined 
castle, the grey walls showing a majestic front of still decay, 
in strong contrast with one's notions of the life that had 
prevailed there centuries ago. A little boat was speedilj 
hauled out of a ruinous boathouse by the children, and 
Stella was invited to step in. 

" But surely it leaks, " she said, doubtfully, looking at 
the pool in the bottom of the boat. 

" Not a bit," cried Molly ; " or, at least, so little that one 
can bale it out as we go along." 

" Is it quite safe?" 

" Perfectly," said Bertie. " It is, indeed. We have 
often been in this boat before. The farmer uses it every 
day." . 

It might be safe, but it was not very clean or very 
agreeable, and Stella was glad when the island was reached. 
Here the three spent a couple of hours, exploring the 
empty chambers of the ruin (how Stella thought of Baime- 
rino !), eating their lunch in a sunny spot well sheltered 
from the wind, and casting pebbles into the smooth waters 



THE LUCK OF Til!': I 10 us R, 



Hi 



of the loch, hke children as they were ! The only draw- 
hack to their happiness lay in the fact that Molly was 
inclined to be huffy with her brolher, and that she turned 
silent and a little sulky during the latter part of the after- 
noon. 

It was proposed at last that they should go home ; and 
then Miss Molly resolved to give her brother and Miss 
Raeburn a fright. She would row to the mainland alone, 
and pretend that she was going to leave them on the 
island; but she would then run down to the farmhouse, 
takeout the i)ony, and drive down to the water again — row 
to the island and fetch them back. This washer plan, and 
it was a comparatively innocent one, and Stella and Ikrtie, 
divining it, were not at all alarmed when they discovered- 
loo late to stop her — ihat she had started off alone. 

" It's just Molly's temper," said Bertie. "She wants to 
frighten us, silly child; but of course we shall not be 
frightened. She will row back or send some one else for 
us presently. You arc not nervous, are you, Miss Kac- 
burn?" 

" Not a bit, " said Stella. 

But she began to feel a trifle nervous when the time 
j)assed on and Molly did not re-appear. The sun was 
low, the wind was rising, and the air was turning cold, and 
still they waited on the island — but the boat was safely 
moored upon the other side of the loch ; and Molly did 
not come ! 



. CHAPTER XI. 

ON THE ISLAND. - 

Stella and her boy-companion occupied themselves 
for some time in wandering about the island, startling 
the ijrds from their nests, and making a collection of the 
scanty, half-nipped weeds that lingered on the Southern 
side. Between four and five, however, when Molly had 
been gone for more than half an hour, Bertie begar. to 
shiver, and even Stella felt the cold. 

" Where can that girl be ?" said the lad, impatiently at 
last. He stood still, and began to stare anxiously at the 
other side of the loch. 

"She cannot be long now," said Stella. 






% 



! I 



;;•!. 



i i 



/• J • 



-1 



78 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



" She ought to have been back long ago. It is just like 
her to play us such a trick. She is a dreadful spitfire." 

" J am afraid that we vexed her a little," said Stella, with 
the sweet frankness that was one of her most winning 
qualities. 

" We ! " exclaimed Bertie, coloring up. " I, you mean, 
Miss Raeburn, only you are too kind to say so." He 
spoke half-shyly, half-impulsively, and Stella's heart 
warmed to him as he made his admission. " I was wrong, 
I know, though Molly is provoking, sometimes. But 
I'm awfully sorry I vexed her, especially as she has included 
you in her revenge." And he smiled at her with eyes so 
like his father's that Stella was quite startled by the 
resemblance. " Ugh ! it's getting very cold," he said, with 
a sudden shiver. 

" You will catch cold ; you must get inside the building," 
said Stella, anxiously. " There is a dry, sheltered room 
here ; you should not be out in the wind." 
• " Thank you ; I won't go in yet," the boy answered. 
" We had better walk up and down and try to attract 
attention. We can be seen perf. .tly well from the banks, 
you know, as long as it is light ; and somebody will be sure 
to come to our rescue." 

" Not many people seem to pass this way." 

" No ; and the bother of it is that the house over there 

is shut up. Miss F i away for the winter, and I 

daresay there is nobody in the place at all. The gardener 
or some of the men may be about — suppose I give a call ? 
Sound travels 9. long way over water." 

" Try," said Stella ; and the boy curved his hands over 
his mouth, and gave a long, shrill call, whicli he repeated 
several times. But his voice was weak and his energy 
soon exhausted ; he remained silent at last, his cry having 
received no answer, and looked gloomily over the darken- 
ing waters and the distant, shadowy land. 

" It's no use," he said, in a low tone. " They will only 
think it's an owl." 

" But Molly knows where we are," said Stella. " She is 
sure to come back or send for us. I hope no accident has 
happened to her." 

" Not a bit of it. It's pure spite and ill-temper. She 
wants to get us into a scrape." 

" But it is not our fault that we are left here ; we can 
easily explain our lateness." 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



7^ 



' They will only 



" I don't know," said Bertie. His face was flushed ; his 
lips began to quiver, almost like a child's. " It will be all 
right for you, of course ; but " 

" But what ?" asked Stella, withdrawing him from the 
water's edge and forcing him to walk briskly up and down 
with her. " What makes you anxious ? " She did not like 
to say afraid, although Bertie's changing color and agitated 
voice gave her the impression that he was not very 
courageous. 

" Oh, nothing," the boy bei^an. But in a second or two 
his voice faltered again. ' It won't matter — only — papa 
is coming home to-night " 

'• Well," said Stella, rather sharply, " what then ? " 

" He does not like me to be out so late," was the halt- 
ing and uncomfortable answer. " And he — he does not 
like — the island." 

" Do you mean that he has told you not to come here ? " 

" He spoke to Moily," said the boy evasively. " He 
never said anything to me. I don't know exactly what he 
said. He thought it wasn't quite safe, but that's nonsense, 
of course. The boat's leaky, you see, and he thinks that 
the Castle walls might give way some day." 

" If you have brought me here," said Stella, after a little 
pause, " knowing that he did not wish you to come, and 
thus making me act against his wishes, you will have 
done t:xceedingly wrong, Bertie, and I shall be very 
much displeased." 

'* Oh, please don't say that ! " cried Bertie. " We meant 
to caution you not to say anything about it as we went 
home, but you were so good-natured that we didn't think 
you would mind, and, as Molly said, this was the last day 
on which we could have any fun because papa was com- 
ing home." 

" It seems to me," said Stella, indignantly, " that you 
talk about your father as if he were a tyrant and a gaoler, 
instead of one of the kindest, most generous, most noble- 
hearted men in all the country-side?" — (How did she 
know that ? For, after all, she had had only three or four 
interviews with Mr. Moncrieff in her life, so she must have 
made up her mind very speedily). ' 

Bertie looked at her in surprise. " I dare say he's all 
tiat — and more," he answered, slowly; "and it is just 
because he is so much above us that Molly and I don't 



: ! : I 



ill 



■ !i 
• il 



m 

I 



I, 



!l, ,1 



80 



T///-: I.VCK OF THE HOUSE. 



get on with liim very well, don't you see?" An accent of 
sluimc and i)ain was aii(lil)lc in the boy's voice as he con- 
tinued ; *' If wc were a little better worth believing in, 
jjerhaps he would believe in us more." 

The shadows had deepened around them as they walked 
up and down the grassy walk, and the wind came in cold 
and fitful gusts round the angles of the Castle. Seeing 
that Bertie shivered a good deal — from fear, perhaps, as 
well as cold — Stella insisted upon his entering the building, 
where they would at least be sheltered from the evening! 
breeze. The night had come on so raj)idly that there was 
no further chance of being seen from the otherside ; theyj 
must dei)end upon Molly's action, and u])on the succourl 
that she might send. Stella felt intensely disai)pointed inl 
her pupil, and indignant with her and with Bertie ; shej 
was more vexed at being made to appear a participator ii 
their rebellion agninst their father's authority than con] 
cerned on her o.rn account. Her eyes filled with tear^j 
as she thought of Mr. Moncrieff's possible displeasurcl 
He had been so kind to her — and she must needs seeni] 
thoughtless and ungrateful to him ! Then there was the 
anxiety to Aunt Jacky, and the exposure to cold of tlu 
delicate lad, Bertie, and also the naughtiness — the extreme 
naughtiness — of Molly herself ; with whom, nevertheless,] 
it was always difficult to find fault when she tossed hoi 
mane of ruddy-gold tresses back from her face, and looked] 
up at one with her mutinous, frolicsome, lovable hazel 
eyes ! Stella felt that the management of a girl of fifteeij 
was a more responsible post than she with her eighteeij 
years ought ever to have attempted. 

She was leaning with her elbows on the rough frame oj 
an unglazed window, looking out at the gleaming wate[ 
and the dark distant forms of hill and wood, when sh£ 
felt a touch upon her arm. " Miss Raeburn, you'll bej 
cold," said the boyish voice, with a slight tremor in itj 
** Please ])ut on my overcoat ; you have only that little 
jacket, and you will feel the cold more than we do, because 
you've been accustomed to a warmer climate." 

" Indeed, I shall do nothing of the kind," said Stella] 
and she would not be persuaded, although the boy triec 
hard to make her don the overcoat, of which he himse! 
stood far more in need. But the kindly offer, with \\\\ 
shy chivalry of feeling expressed in the lad's mannerj 



THE LUCK THE HOUSE. 



8l 



touched her ; and she had a tenderness for Bertie ever 
afterv^'ards ; a tenderness of which he was one day to be 
sorely in need. 

Her spirits rose a Httle, and she ])eguiled tlic time by 
[talking, telHng stories, and laughing, so as to induce Bertie 
Ito be cheerful. But circumstances were certainly not 
jconducive to cheerfulness. The room in which they had 
{taken refuge was not so dam]) as might have been expected, 
for there had been a continuance of fine weather for some 
vceks ; but it was lighted only by the one little arched 
■indow, at which Stelhi still kept watch ; and strange, 
mcanny noises were heard from time to time, attributed 
)y Bertie to"^the tribes of rats, owls, and other wild crea- 
tures which had made certain jiortions of the building their 
)wn. There were rooms in a tolerably good state of pre- 
servation, Bertie explained, but they were locked u]), and 
It was only to the more ruinous parts of the Castle that 
jtray visitors like the Moncrieffs and their governess had 
Iccess. 

" I wonder how long we have been here ? " he sighed 
[t last. " It must be the middle of the night ! Aren't 
[ou very hungry. Miss Raeburn ? " 

" Rather. But I don't think it is so late. Let us have 

Inother walk to keep ourselves warm. I wish I could see 

lie time." 

But there was no moon, and the clouds had been sweep- 

»g up from behind the hills until even the faint light of 

le stars was obscured. They went outside and walked 

|ong the l>ank — and then Bertie stopped short and grasped 

tella by the arm. " I hear something," he said. And, 

ideed, a sound of voices was borne upon the wind, and 

[flash of light from a lantern was seen upon the bank. 

ntic shouted, but his voice was far too hoarse and feeble 

])e heard. And then came the still more welcome noises 

^at showed the "castaways," — as Stella had ])layfully 

imed herself and Bertie, — that a boat was being pushed 

from the shore. Nothing to Stella had ever been so 

jlconie as the sound of the oars in the rowlocks and the 

[gular plash of every swift and steady stroke. 

Suddenly Bertie leaned heavily on her arm. "^.et me 

down," he said, with a strange gasj) ; " I — I — am — 

red." Then he sank down on the grass, and when Mr. 

[oncrieiiC — with a rather stern logk upgn |iis handsome 

f 6 



: I 



I l^jl" MW, ,,■, «.^ ■i*^™ 



%i 



TtfE LUCK or rni'. tfovsE. 




fjtrc- jinnpt'd nshorc. nnd hittu'd the light dI m l;nitrtn 
upon tlu' t\v«) (lisr(Mist)l;\lc Ijgnics. \\v fomid lli.-il Stcll.t 
Knvlnirn wms knrclin^ on llu* bank, siipportiiiii; will) oin 
nnn tlu'lu'iul <)r liis son Hnlii'. whose white ;in(l «U'alh hki 
npponr.-nu-c showed thai the dav's adveiilures h;ul Ixmm 
to«> \\\\\k\\ for his deh'i ate ttame. .md that whrii thf strain 
was relaxed he had simply tainted away. 

Then* was no time tor explanation or apology. Mi. 
Monerii'tT had wiseh IniMi^ht a small tlask of brandw 
>vhieh. to tell the Imlh, he had niore than hall" expected 
Su'lla to nei'd ; luit althotigh she did not rcipiire it, it was 
Very valnaMi- m restorin^j, lU rtie's strength when, with ;i 
sigh and a mo.m. ho retnrned to eonseionsness. And then 
ran\o a <piestion k'sK transit, rendered more dillienll than iij 
\vo\dd otherwise ha\e been In Hertie's ftrhh' condition. 

" We eanna eross a' at onee ; it wadna be sale," sai'! 
the ma> in ,^the boat om <>i the larming nu'n, as Sti-ll 
heard ;oterwards, 

" I will stay." said Stella. <pn( kly. 

"Alone? eertainh not." sai<l Mr. Mom riefT's p«'remp 
lor\ voice. "l>o von feel stronjQ( enomrfv to wait heo 
with me. Miss Raebnrn. while the mar, takes Herlie across 
1 think in his present state that he mnsi have the prccr 
denee, if von will exense his gtnng lirst. The fanner*^ 
wife and Mr. Kingseott are on th^ udier side; they wilj 
attend to Bertie while the boat eomes ba' k for lis." 

As .Stella eon( urn d in this arrangianenl, Hertie was km 
in tlie ]H>at--fo'' •!. lid not seem strong enough to s'j 
erect — tiio boattiv-n ;)ushed oO', and ^^r. ^^)n^ riefT an] 
Miss Raebnrn were left together on the lonely island i 
the silenc(^ ami darkness of the night. j 

" 1 hope von .are not i old," said Mon«.riefT at last, mtnj 
formally than \isual. 

" No, oil no. Hut oh, Mr. Moncriefl*, you will think ni 
so careless^ — ^so t hildish." 

"Not at all. I imderstand from Molly that it ^^;^j 
entirely her fault." 

" Hut," saiil Stella, tremblingly. *' if 1 had been wisei 
older — it would all have been different. If 1 had known 
oh, Mr. MoncrietV, please let mt" give up my situation ;!J 
Molb 's governess; 1 see that 1 am too young- I cat 
manage her — and she shonld have an older teacher 

" What ? " he said, i 1 a n\nch more pleasant vok;e, " art 
you frightened by vour irsi little difficulty? '* 



TtfE tucfc OF rtfi- ffi^i sn. 



«i 



iglit of a Inntrrti 
joinHl IIkiI Slcllii 

lili' ami (U-;iil» likf 

n wIhmi tin- sliMiii 

oi apology. M' 
tinsk of l)ian(l\, 
ban lull rxpcctiMl 
I nMHiirc it, it W;is 
\^\\\ wluai, witli :u 
isncss. And tlu-nl 
)rc «lini( iilt 'i):in iij 
l"ccl:i<' , Miulition. 
(ln;i W sale," SMi'l 
lin^ men, as SU'll' 



loin liolT's iH-nMnp 
>u:. h to WM\ \\v\\ 
;ikcs Hi-rlic arross 
i)sl have tlu' priM ri 
list, IIh; larnuM 
ijtcr side ; tlu'v wil| 
Iva* k for ns." 
ont, Hcrtit; was l;o< 
rong I'noiigh to s'J 
\tr. Motu ri<.'fT an| 
the lonely island i 

incricfT at last, men 

(i; you will think wi 

Molly that it ^^;l| 

■ 1 liad hccn wiser 

:. It lh;nl known 
lip \w\ situation 'j 
too young I < ;"' 
older teacher 

pleasant voice, " i^^ 

culty ? " 



Siclla w;is mute. It w.is not flu- (jiiestion that she 



li;ul expe( 



ted. 



I knov, perfcfdy well t'i;it yon wf>rf not to fdnmc. 
\()ii did not know lli;il I ohjec ted tf» tlicir vi-^its to flie 
i^;|;iiid ; ilideefj, I do iiol olijci t wlicfi • person in niitlif)r'fy 

like vonrscir ' is wilJ! Ilictn. VoumxiM not possiMy 
help Molly's silly action whn h was really more silly than 
Itl.nneworthy, as I will explMin lf> yon nllcrwards. So yon 
•^(•c, Miss kaelmrn, there is not the slightest reason for 
this proposed dcsertirm of your (»ffi( e." 

Stella coidd leel that he sfiiiled as he turned towards 
hir, but she was overwrought ami unable to resp(»rid 
She tried to say s(.tnething, Itut in the effort to speak a. 
Hj>b escaped her, and another, and then she was obliged 
to (over her fa.( <• with her hands. And this movernent, 
in spite of the darkness, he c(Kdfl see. 

Tears?" he said, so softly that she would hardly have 



known the v(»ie(> for that of Aiati Monrrieff. 



It is n(;t 



worth a tear. You tnust not cry fjver this luatter, my dear 
Miss Kaeburn." 'I'lv addition of the name was Init 



l<M) manifestly an aftertliough 



(( 



Wi 



ly (\(t y()y\ cr 



y? 



I thought," gasped Stella, " that you w(/uld be — so — 



atigry ! 

" An<l are you beginning to fear me alrearly f " he answer 
ed, a little bitterly. " Oh, < hild, dou't 'Ao that - dou't he 
.afraid of me, as my own ( hildren art;, f am not so hard 
and severe as they th'nk me, F am not indeed. The boat 
is almost here again," he went on, with a sudden < hangt; of 
tone ; " it is at the steps. t)ive me your hand ; f will help 
vou in." 

lb Ujok the girl's hand and held it, altho' h they ha<l 
(«) wait, as it turned out, several minutes i the boat. 
Nevertheless he did yiot let it gf). And the strong yet ;^ent!e 
( lasp gave Stella an f»dd feeling of rest and protection ; 
the night isolated her from all the w(;rld beside, and it 
seeniefl for a moment as if (here were no »rie living in the 
wliole wide earth except herself and him. 



t "^r 




111:1 



ill 



84 



THE rvcK or the house. 



(11 AP'I'I'.R xir. 



Al./W MONCKIKKK S glJKSTION. 



ATihia's c\i)l;niati()n ol lu r (Xtrnordinnry boliavior may 
bo given iii Ium own words. Slio visited Stella on the Sunday 
morning niter ( Imrcli, nnd inlormed her governess with 
great gravity that she had eonie to make an apology. 

" l\i|>a sent me," she said, I'rai.kly, " or 1 should have 
>v.\ited until tomorrow, you know ; hut i)erha|)s it is best 
for you to hear all about it to day. Hceause I didn't leave 
yon on the island on ))ur|)ose — you know that, don't ytni, 
Miss Raoburn ? "' 

" I am glad you''didn't, Molly," said Stella, smiling, and 
rather evading the (juestion. 

'• ! wouldn't have left you there for anything. I meant 
to go to the farm and get the eariiage out, and come bark 
for you. I was slow about it, 1 know, beeausc I was croKS 
with Hertic. Ik^sides, ; met Unele Ralph on the way, and 
Mopned to talk to him ^" 

"Mr. Kingseott?" Stella said, with snrjirise. 

*' Vcs, he had been for a long walk. I told him where 
you were and that I was going to feteh you, and he said 
that he would not dedain me, and went on. \\'ell, just as I 
had got the man lo put the i)ony in, a little boy eanie 
ruiming to tell me that he had seen the lady at the big 
house (the lady who owns the |)roj)erty, you know) send 
out her boat for you ; that you had gone into her house. 
*nJ that she was going to send you home in her carriage. 
Well I thought that so (X)ol of you that 1 tlew into a 
passion, and said to myself that I would drive home all l)y 
n\yse!f and that you might come back in the carriage f*l 
anyl)o<ly else you pleased." 

■ But. Molly, that was net a true story." 

' No, ot course it wasn't. 'I he boy was telling lies." 

But why " 

*' Oh, of coarse, he diiln'l know that it was lies. My 
opinion is," said Molly. tightiMiing her lips, " tl t some 
body had told him to say sg. ami that somebody was Uncle 
Ralph." 



m, 



BJb 



\''^ 



'/'///'; /AA'A' (>/' I 'HE House, 



«5 



la, smiling, iind 



" Molly, (iriir, don't hi* so alisjird." 

" I believe so," said Molly, stubbornly. " Ife wanted to 
^fl IIS mII into ;i din'K nlly. lie bates ilirlie to be out with 
us. lie likes to \iy\ Uerlie to ( oinc U'itli him. I believe it 
\v;is liis ievenf.fe." 

" How is Jlertie?" said Stella, resolving not to listen to 
these statements. 

"Oh, he has a feverish cold. lie is in bed, ;ind the 
d()( tor was sent for this morning;. Miss Kaebiirn, dear, 
vol! don't think thai I would be so horrid, so disaj^reeable 
,111(1 naiij^hty," as to |ilay yon sw< h a trick, on purpose i* 
Indeed,"- -;ind i\b)lly's arms were suddenly thrown round 
.Stella's neck — " indeed, I do love you, and want to be a 
good girl. Won't you forgive me?" 

( )f course, Stella forgave her on the sj>ot, and w.is relieved 
to feel that she might do so with a good ronsciem e. The 
mystery of the boy's report of her doings was impossible 
to solve at present, and she wisely <(>unselled Molly to put 
it by as a thing whi( h time would jtrobably make dear. 
She found that Mr. Moncrieff had been angry, but less angry 
on his return from the island than before. When he first 
learned from Molly what hado((.urred -iJertie's continued 
;il;sence".'in(l in(|uiries at Miss jacky's, leading every one 
to infer that the two were still upon the island, subject to 
all the discomforts of ( old and (hirkness— Mr. Moncrieff 
had indeed been much disi)leased. " I thought he would 
have boxed my ears!" said Molly. " JJut he didn't -he 
never has done su( h a thing, so I don't suppose that he 
will begin ! lUit he looked so ii.ngry I And he was angrier 
llian ever alter sonK.-lhing tluit Uncle Ralph said to him." 

Stella stopped the recital of Mr. Kingscott's sayings very 
decidedly. J^>ut what had been said transpired afterwards, 
inu( h to her annoyance. 

Kal|)h Kingscott had uttered a low derisive laugh when 
Molly faced her father and told her story. " What are you 
laughing at?" Mr. Moncrieff h*ad said. 

" I am laughing," Kingscott answered, " at the unneces- 
sary trouble which you are giving yourself l>rive back, 
row over to the island, rescue the castaways, of course, 
without delay. Hut be careful that yrm don't arrive too 
soon.'' 

'• I shall be obliged to you if you will express yourself a 
little mt^re d'^yl^." 



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TlfJi LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



" My dear Alan, don't look so tremendously high and 
mighty. Do you forget that your son and your very pretty 
little governess are almost exactly the same age ? I always 
thought that you had done a shockingly imprudent thing,] 
you know 1" 

" Do you mean to imply " 

"I imply nothing," Ralph Kingscott said, provokingly.l 
"Not even that it was what the Americans call ' a put-upl 
job,' and that the two are at present chuckHng over MoUy'sj 
simplicity, and vowing eternal constancy beneath the moon 
I should leave them there till midnight if I were you, and| 
give them a thorough fright." 

But, according to Molly's account, which did not read 
Stella's ears till some days later, Mr. Moncrieff had peremp-j 
torily silenced his brother-in-law, and had at once ordere( 
the carriage for his rescue expedition to the loch. 

Certainly no trace of any suspicion of the kind indicate* 
by Mr. Kingscott's words was visible in Alan MoncriefTs 
demeanor to the young stranger who sojourned daily for 
i^^ hours under his roof. He was uniformly kind and con I 
siderate to her ; he evidently trusted her completely. Ber 
tie, although of Stella's age by years, was such a child comi 
pared to her, that Ralph Kingscott's insinuation fell to the! 
ground almost unheeded. Almost — not quite unheeded.] 
For there was a fund of jealousy and suspiciousness ii 
Alan MoncriefF's nature, which had been fostered by cer-j 
tain circumstances of his past life ; and without his bein^ 
as yet aware of it, distrust of all around him was rapidlj 
becoming the mainspring of his life. It was this distrust 
which really alienated him from his children, as (report| 
said) it had alienated him from his wife. 

But this latent fault in his character was not visible tcl 
Stella. To her he was ever gracious and kindly, treating! 
her with a confidence which her steady and patient workj 
with Molly certainly justified. And the experience of the 
island sobered Molly considerably, and made her very sub- 
missive and loving to Stella, who had quite won her heart. 
A sharp attack of cold and fever prostrated Bertie for weeks] 
afterwards, and it became natural for Stella to see a good| 
deal of him, as, during his convalescence, he used to come 
to the schoolroom, and lie on a broad old-fashioned sofa 
near the fire, listening while Molly's lessons proceeded, oi 
when Stella read aloud. Sometimes Mr. Moncrieff lookec 



THE LUCK 01' THE HOUSE. 



87 



|n on those occasions, and seemed always glad to find 
Jertie "in such good company." The only person in the 
louse with whom Stella could not feci friendly and at her 
jase was Ralph Kingscott. She was certain that he had a 
)cculiar spite against her, for he never lost anoj)portunity 
)f catching up and exaggerating any little mistake that she 
night make in his hearing, and of setting her actions in the 
orst possible light (at least, if acc:ounts given by Molly 
ind Bertie could be trusted), and also, she was sure that he 
lad a bad influence over Bertie. The boy, less cautious in 
Jtella's presence than in that of his father, let fall phrases 
,'hich showed that something underhand was going on ; that 
le went to places and had companions of which his father, 
jvould not approve; that his uncle connived at, if he did 
lot encourage, these proceedings. Th( se facts troubled 
Jtella ; she did not like to act the part of a spy, or a tale- 
)earer, but she could not help thinking that Mr. Moncrieff 
)iight to have some notion imparted to him as to what 
^'as going on. 

Meanwhile the winter passed away and was succeeded 
)y a bleak and biting spring. In March, Mr. Moncrieff 
rent to London. His absence made little difference to the 
busehold. Stella fancied, however, that Bertie was degen- 
erating in mind and feeling, and she made up her mind that 
|hj ought to speak to Mr. Moncrieff about him as soon as 
\e returned. And yet she was terribly afraid that he would 
link such speech presumptuous. 

She did not find aa opportunity for some time, however. 

T. Moncrieff paid a flying visit to his home in June, and 

len it was chiefly in order to arrange that Miss Jacky and 

ftella should take Molly to the sea-side for a little change 

\{ air, during the month of July, He said that she had 

ken growing fast, and required a change ; perhaps he also 

lad an eye to Stella's rather delicate appearance, and wanted 

Icr to have the benefit of sea-breezes. At any rate, he 

fcrsuaded Miss Jacky to agree to his plan, aad commis- 

jioned her to find suitable lodgings at St. Andrews at his 

fxpense; and then he vanished as suddenly as he had 

come, taking Bertie away with him, and leaving Mr. King- 

ficott free to follow his own devices. 

So it chanced that on one lovely day in July, Stella was 

iated in a shady nook of the Castle at St. Andrews, with 

book in her hand, while Miss Jacky and Molly had gone 



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THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



to the bathing-place, where Molly was (presumably^ dc^- 
porting herself in " the Ladies' Pool. " Stella was seated \w 
a window recess of the old grey wall ; the book, as we said, 
was in her hand, but her eyes had strayed from it to the 
great expanse of blue water, flashing and glittering in the 
sunlight, breaking with long murmurous roll over the 
rocks below, a never ending source of beauty and mystery, 
of sorrow and of joy. As Stella watched it, she was con- 
scious of the awe, solemn and yet tender, which the sight 
of Nature in its grandest forms often produces in us ; a 
feeling of the limitations and narrowness and weakness of 
human life in presence of the Eternal. Her own sorrows 
seemed to die away in the consciousness of a greater life 
enveloping her own. She was experiencing one of those 
moments of true vision in which the plan of our whole life 
seems clear to us, our path of duty perfectly distinct, when 
we feel it impossible that we shall ever turn aside to the 
right hand or to the left ; that all our days will ever after- 
wards be hallowed by the remembrance of that gracious 
hour. Such moments come to us too seldom ; but they 
are full of blessing when they come. 

And in this mood she was found by Alan Moncrieff. 

She did not notice his approach until he was close to her, 
and then she started and half rose. He lifted his hat 
smilingly, and asked her to sit down again. *' You 
have chosen a lovely spot, " he said looking through 
the window in the wall to the mingling blue of sea and sky 
bevond. 

" I was to stay here until Aunt Jacky and Molly came 
back to me," she said, coloring a little as she spoke. 

He leaned against the old grey wall at her side and 
looked down at her. " Is Molly a good girl ? " he asked, 
a smile curving his lip beneath his dark moustache. 

" Very good indeed. " 

How handsome he was ! she thought as he stood there, 
his face a little tanned after his Swiss tour, with a new 
}ight in his brown eyes, and strength and energy in every 
limb. No youth, certainly ; but a vigorous man, full of | 
manliness and purpose. She had never seen a man in 
whom she had found more to admire. John Hannington ? 
Ah ! the name had almost lost its power to wound ; John 
Hannington was commonplace Ixjside Alan Moncrieff. 

" How is Bertie ? " sh'i said, forcing herself to speak. 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



89 



** Better, thank you. And I hope — I trust — that he is 
losing his fear of me." 

She was surjjrised to hear him speak so plainly. " It is 
unreasonable of him to feel fear of you," she exclaimed. 

Mr. Moncrieff smiled as if well pleased. "You would 
not feel it, would you ? " he said, and then caught him- 
self up and went on in a different tone. "He tells me 
that you have lectured him on the subject. Perhaps it is 
not fair to repeat all that he has said. But, at 'any rate, 
he has made me sure of one thing : that I need an inter- 
preter to stand between me and my children. They have 
no mother ; and they need the gentle guidance of a 
woman's hand. Therefore, after long consideration — for 
1 do not wish you to sui)pose that 1 am speaking rashly or 
on the imjjulse of the moment— I have come to St. Andrews 
to-day, Miss Raeburn, with one purpose — one only — in 
my mind ; and that is, to ask you a ciuestion, or rather to 
make a request. Will you — some day — honor me so/ar 
as to become my wife ? " 



Ml 



CHAPTER XHI. 



A COMPACT. 



For the moment Stella doubted whether or no she had 
heard aright. Sea, sky, castle, and fair green sward, all 
swam before her eyes. The color mounted to her fore- 
head, and then receded, leaving her very pale. But she 
showed no other sign of emotion. Her hands, crossed 
over the book on her lap, did not tremble: her whole 
1 form was very still. 

" I see that I have startled you," said Mr. Moncrieff, 

I gently — he judged so from his general knowledge of 

women rather than from Stella's demeanor ; "but I hope 

that you will consider my proposition seriously, and give 

[me an answer when you can." 

*' It is so sudden — I was not prepared for anything of 
[the kind," faltered Stella, finding voice at last. 

" Is it too sudden ? I have thought of it for some 
jtime," said her suitor, kying his hand softly on hers and 
[possessing himself of the delicate fingers as he spoke. " Is 
it so very hard to answer, Stella?" 



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THE LUCK OE THE HOUSE, 



The utterance of her name was an experiment. He was 
not sure whether she would resent it or not. But she sat 
perfectly still. 

" You are, I think, fond of the children," he went on 
after a few moments' silence. " You know my difficulties 
in guiding them — even in understanding them. You have 
a greater influence over Molly than any one I ever knew. 
You may be of incalculable use to her. I put this view 
of the question before you because I know that with you 
the prospect of doing good to others is the greatest induce- 
ment that I car. offer. But there are, perhaps, other 
things that I should mention. Your aunt, whom you love 
so dearly, shall henceforth be kept from all anxiety and 
care ; she shall be to me like a kinswoman of my own — 
if you will consent to be my wife. And you shaU have 
every pleasure — every advantage — that my position 
enables me to offer you. As my wife, as mistress of Tor- 
resmuir, I think that you would have no cause to r'^gret 
your choice." 

Stella felt, though somewhat vaguely, the coldness., the 
practical matter-of-factness of his tone. She turned her 
face away to the shining sea and the purple heaven as «he 
replied — 

" Those advantages are not the things that attract mc 

Moncrieff started and seemed to reflect. 

" No," he said at last, in a tone that showed him to be 
moved. " You ?re not like other women. The way to 
attract you is, I believe, to show you the difficulties, the 
responsibilities of a position, and then to ask you to as- 
sume the one and surmount the other. Well, if that is the 
case, I have plenty of these to offer you. I am a busy 
man, obliged to be much away from home : I ask you to 
take my plaee when I am absent, to be a friend and 
helper to my unruly boy and girl, to entertain my guests 
and be my almoner to the poor. Will that suit your no- 
tions of duty, and will you undertake the task ? " He was 
smiling a little, and she felt once more that vague sense of 
dissatisfaction — she knew not why. She kept silence : her 
delicate eyebrows knitting themselves into a very slight 
frown above her eyes. She was not angry, but she was 
puzzled and distressed. 

Alan watched her, and a new expression crossed his 
face. " 1 had forgotten," he said, almost haughtily, " that 



ause to r'^gret 



It attract mQ 



THE LUCK OF THE tlOUSE, 



91 



some one may have a prior claim. Is there any one — 
any one else ? " 

" Any one else ? " said Stella, lifting her eyes to his. 
She really did not quite understand what he meant to say. 
" Are you engaged to any other man ? " 
''Oh, no." 

The simple negative quite satisfied him. But he. put 
another question for form's sake. " There is no one else, 
I mean, whom you — you — prefer ? " He had a difficulty 
in choosing the right form of expression. 

" No," said Stella, quietly, and this was true. 
" Then, may I hope that you will be my wife ? " 
There was a little struggle with herself, and the tears 
came into her eyes. " I don't know what to say, Mr. 
Moncrieff. Are you sure thai you think it best ?" she said, 
with the naive earnestness which he had often thought so 
charming. '' I am so young and inexperienced that I 
feel — afraid." 

" If that is all, I cannot consider it a very serious ob- 
jection," he answered, without a smile. " Will you not 
trust me ? " 

" Oh, yes, I trust you." 
" Then you will be my wife ? " 

She held out her hand to him. " If you wish it," she 
replied. 

It was perhaps rather an odd wooing. And when he 
had bent his lips to the little hand that she had given him, 
and the com.pact was ratified by the kiss, Stella felt a rush 
of compunction, of dread, of insecurity. What had she 
done ? Had she not given her consent too readily to the 
most momentous step in life that a woman ean ever take ? 
What did she know of Alan Moncrieff, and how could she 
believe that he cared for her ? 

But then, she told herself positively, there was no pre- 
tense of " caring " on either side. He had not said one 
word of love : he had not asked for her affection. He had 
asked her to perform certain duties at his side : that was 
all. She honestly believed that she could do these duties 
— that she could be of more help to Molly and Bertie as 
their father's wife than in her present position. And she 
wanted to help them. She was fond of Bertie : she had 
grown to love Molly with all her heart. It was surely 
right to take upon herself the duty that was offered to her : 



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THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



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to do her best for the man who would be her husband,] 
for the boy and girl whom she could also count as her.'- 
She did not feel as if the task would be without its charm. I 

But she did not love him, she went on to say to herself I 
She adm'red and respected him ; and surely that wa;:| 
enough? If her heart had never been won before, she| 
might have looked for i)assionate affection in her lover 
now she was only too glad to feel that he neither gave nor 
required any such thing. She was tired of the very name] 
of love. John Hannington had won it from her once anc 
flung it cruelly away ; she had none now to give. Hon- 
estly believing, as young ])eople do sometimes believe,! 
that she had loved once and forever, it seemed a fair bar-T 
gain to her to give her hand to a niiwi whose heart was,j 
presumably, buried in a grave, and who asked her onl^ 
for help and service in a prosaic, matter-of-fact, but kin( 
and even fatherly way. That was Stella's view of th( 
question, and she gave little thought to the possibility 
that marriage would bring her either great happiness oi 
great misery. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Monc: ieff looked at her, and thought! 
of the poem that he had once or twice quoted when hei| 
sweet tranquillity was before him : 

" Her eyes were stiller than the depth 
Of summer skies at even." 

But when he spake aloud, only prosaic words came forth] 

" How soon shall you be ready for our marriage, 
Stella ? " 

She started and colored. Oh, not yet," she murmured,| 
rather nervously. 

" I hope that it will not be very long before I can call 
you my property," said Moncriefif, rather lightly, but with! 
a sudden softening of his stern, dark face. " I have heardl 
you say that you wanted to see Staffa : we might go there] 
before the season closes " 

But Stella gave him such a look of mingled surprise! 
and dismay that he smiled and resolved to bide his tinfie.[ 
More could not be said just then for Miss Jacky and! 
Molly were seen approaching, and in their astoniskmentl 
at Mr. Moncrieffs appearance, Stella's flushed face and| 
drooping eyelids passed unnoticed. 

Molly's lively tongue was, as usual, hushed in her fath* 



,1 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



93 



' she murmured,! 



shed in her fath- 



er's presence, and she soon seized an opportunity of draw- 
ling Stella away from his side, and leaving him to the com- 
Ipanionship of Miss Jacky. He walked with them to their 
[lodgings, and then bade them farewell, saying that he 
Kvould return in the evening. And Stella found that he 
[had made good use of his time, for, as soon as Molly 
[could be shaken off, Miss Jacky seized her niece impul- 
jsively, and gave her a kiss of congratulation. 

*' And what's this I hear, Stella ? " she said, her very 
[bonnet nodding with mingled delight and agitation ! " Mr. 
(Moncrieff of Torresmuir, that has been everywhere and 
|scen everything, to take up with a wee lassie like you ! 
Well, wonders will never cease. You to be mistress of his 
)iouse, and one of the greatest ladies in the country side ! 
[t's a proud man your father would have been, lassie, if 
Ihe had lived to see the day ! And do ye mind him saying 
[that he meant to see you a duchess yet ? Why, Moncrieff's 
IS rich as many a duke, I believe, and a far grander-look- 
ing man than any I ever saw ; and ye may well be proud 
)f your conquest, Stella, my bairn ! " 

" Proud ? " said Stella, smiling a little. "'I think I am 
iiorc perplexed than proud, Aunt Jacky. Do you think I 
im right ? " 

'' If ye love the man, ye're right to marry him, be he 
|ord or beggar," said Aunt Jacky, stoutly. 
" But if you don't love him ? " * 

" Ye're not thinking of marrying without love, are you, 
iiy dear ? That's just an awful thing to do, it seems to 
lie." 

Stella stood silent for a moment. Her color varied, and 
icr lips trembled as she replied — 

" But — if I do not love him, I respect him, I admire 
lim, I like him. Is that not enough ? He has a.sked me 
[o help him ; and I want of all things to be a help and a 
:omfort to him. Oh, auntie, do not tell me that I am 
loing wrong." 

" But have you not considered, my dear, what a fright- 
["ul thing it would be if you met somebody, some day, that 
rou liked better than your husband ? And if you don't 
love him, it seems to me just a possibility," said Miss 
[acky, quite simply and solemnly, her eyes growing large 
Kith horror as she uttered her little warning. But, to her 
jreat surprise, Stella met it with a burst of tears. 



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THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



" Oh, Aunt Jacky, I shall never, never do that ! I shall 
never love anybody — 1 shall never be loved myself," 
s()bl>cd the poor child, on her aunt's shoulder, as Miss 
Jacky hastened to console her. The old lady scarcely 
heard, and certainly did not understand, the words, but 
she s;i\v that her beloved Stella was in trouble, and she at 
once forgot everything but her love for her brother's 
daughter and her desire that she should be happy. 

Mr. MoncrierTcame to the house from his hotel that 
evening, and i)ressed the scheme of a very speeedy mar- 
riage upon his betrothed with some assiduity. And, indeed, 
as he said, what was the .ise of waiting ? If Stella had 
promised to marry him at all, she might as well marry him 
at once. And Stella, after that first protest, and in spite 
of some inward shrinking, was j)ersuaded to agree with! 
him. With her limited means there could be little question 
about wedding finery. Then it would be a pity to deprive! 
Alan of his autumn holiday, and he told her plainly thatl 
he would not go away from Dunkeld without her, and 
that it would be much more convenient for him if she 
would become his wife with as little delay as possible. j 
Stella was far too reasonable to oppose his will. 

She wondered very much how Molly and Bertie would! 
take the news, which Mr. Moncrieflf insisted on telling 
them almost immediately. The result was unlooked for. I 
Bertie seemed pleased by it in a shy and diffident sort ofl 
way ; he wrote a letter expressive of great content with! 
the new arrangement ; but Molly, who had hitherto seemed 
so fond of Stella, raged and stormed for a day or two, and 
then fell into an aggrieved and injured frame of mind, 
which distressed Stella inexpressibly. Molly was sixteen I 
now, and felt it very hard to have a stepmother only three I 
years older than herself set over her head ; for she had 
begun to dream of the delight of being mistress of the| 
house, of going very soon into society and assuming all 
the importance which would attach to the daughter of the 
master of Torresmuir. Now she felt that she would have 
to resign herself to obscurity and submissiveness for some 
time longer ; and she did not relish the prospect. 

The marriage was celebrated early in August ; and then 
the bride and bridegroom departed on their wedding tour. 
Molly was left with friends to pay several visits while her 
father was away ; and Bertie and his uncle had some 






THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



95 



shooting in the Highlands. Tt was late in September 
before Alan Moncrieff brought his young wife home to 
Torresmuir. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



THE HONEYMOON. 



Stella had sometimes wondered at the fear entertained 
by Molly of Mr. MoncriefT, but during the days of her 
engagement and of her early married life she was fain to 
confess that the fear was justifiable. Alan Moncrieff was 
a grave man, whose manner was apt to be cold and aus- 
tere ; his will was strong, his judgments, founded on a 
very high ideal of conduct, occasionally seemed to her 
harsh and inflexible. There were certain sins and vices 
which he never condoned. Deceit of any kind was in his 
eyjs unpardonable ; cowardice, incomprehensible as well. 
He did not boast of his inability to forgive, as a weak 
man would have done ; he was, perhaps, hardly aware of 
tlie force with which this characteristic struck an observer ; 
i)iit Stella could not help feeling that she should be sorry 
to incur his displeasure, and that she sympathised a little 
with his children's awe of him. His manner was so cour- 
teous, and he was so uniformly calm and kind and gentle, 
that she did not all at once discover the iron hand be- 
neath the velvet glove, and even when she found it out 
she could not find it in her heart to like him the less, 
: although she might fear him the more for it. 

Her honeymoon was, however, a very enjoyable time 
I to her. It might have astonished Molly to see how far 
I her father could unbend when he chose to do so, how sel- 
dom the melancholy shades crossed his brow, and how 
; ready was his smile, when he was with Stella. He took 
great pleasure in showing her fine scenery, old buildings, 
! and interesting relics of antiquity ; and, finding her a very 
intelligent listener, he developed a flow of talk of which 
nobody at his own home would have deemed him capable. 
Indeed, he was at his best when alone with his young 
wife ; and, although she was not a person of demonstra- 
tive high spirits, her quiet serenity seemed to make him 
I more cheerful every day. Stella long retained the memory 



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Id 77/a: rrcA' or 7//a f/ot\s^:, 

of i>lo;\R!\nl ilrivos ovim tin* In'lls, o( rhunnin^' sholls in 
g.uMon vM fiMrst or l>usv sltiM-t, of ^o;^^in^ rxiutlilions ninl 
n jHMfiMl \vi'rk of loNvly wr.Uhir in llu' llrbiidrs ; ulst) of 
A ro\n>le of \\i\\s .it oi>nn nhirh lollowttl il.n h of sun 
shino .in<l langhirt nnd onjoynunl surli as slu- li;nl srl<lon» 
known. Al.nn MonrvulV « tviinnlv suMnfM lo tinnk tli;H lu' 
to\iU? not »U> nuni^h \o\ \\\v. \\v \Hm^\\\ Uvv ilnssfs ,\\\\\ 
)v\\v\\\ i\\\i\ \nvsv\\[s y\\ all kituls. \nUil sl\r w »■< oMi^ril lo 
n^ltrat liin^ to sto]), <Um laving that slu* li'lt likr a doll that 
n I hihi was »!ci orating. At whi«h h»> langlutl, ami 
liorlaviH! tl^at all tluMlororatiot^s in tin- woiM mmiM noi 
inako her prottiiM than sho was ahtatly a spicrh whii li 
so\n\»\oil (It'lightfnlly o»Ul atul o\it ot rhaiaitrr iwnw Alan 
Moni riofV's gravo lips. \\c havl gono l>a« k trn years, n 
sconuni to StiUa, and n^aik- h\n\silj young at\tl gay, to lu' 
i\ n>\n|>aniv)n to hor youth 

The last day of iho bright, brief hoiuytnoot\ ranu" at 
last. 

** Wo go bark tomorrow, StoUa." sai«l Ium luisband, as 
they sat ow the beav h at (>han, and looked at the n\otley 
groups oi people who were slrolhng about before thetu. 
•' Shall you be sorry ? " 

'* Vos," said Stella, quite frankly, "for st>nuMhings 
b\it 1 shall )n^ glad lo see Molly and lUrtie and A\nit 
laekv ag.iin." She was givii\g her attentivui [o a poodl 



i>el 



v>ngiug to a party o\ ladies o\\ a beneh near the o 



ni 



where she sat ; the do^ was a ridievdous ereature with 
shaven haunehes, frills, and a tufted, tail tied with bhu 
ribbon ; he wore a silver eoUar an»l braeelets. and sat up 
and ]>egged when one looked at hin\. Stella threw hitn .\ 
morsel t>f biscuit ; she had niaiariHu\s in her poeket. 

" Would yi)u like a dv>g o( this kind ? " asked Mr. Mon 
eric ft". 

•* No, thank you ; he is too arlitieial for my taste. I 
don't want a dog o( society : I want a country dog, ,\ 
collie or a dcerhoimd. Hut what a funny ireature a poodle 
is, .Man 1 Do yo\i think Molly would like one ? " 

*' Mv>ny would scorn it, 1 am afraid." 

Stella threw anolher morsel o\' macaroon. " 1 suppose 
so. l">id yoi get her the brooch we saw this morning ? 



cs, a 



n<i 



one for vou, son\ething like it. 



*' Vou arc much too generous, .Man." 

Moncrictll" laughed. '* Not n\uch generosity in buyini 



I I 



rttn ivcK or nn- novsi-: 



97 



\\\^ shnlls in 
|UMlihoMs \\\\y\ 
\y\\^ ; mIso of 
il,\\H ol sun 
11- \\\\y\ scltloin 

\\\\\\V \\\\\\ In' 
•r ihcHSi'H \\\\y\ 
r»'< ol»ligr<l tt» 
kv M «1«>I1 lltMt 
liUigluM, nnd 
il,l M»\Uil n«n 

spccrh \s\\\y \\ 
iv lVon\ A Inn 

. WW Vi'iUS. \i 

\n*l gi\y, to Ih' 



hvnurtiny h:»lr|»«in»y tiling nf th.il kin«l, i'j tlirrj- ? Vnn 
(ik»il il, \\\\\\ \S\v\ inv irnmm." 

" \'iMi MIC vnv kintl." siiiil Sifll.-i, iilliiing \\y\ word. 

•' Pont ynn mmIIv «nir (m oin.iinrnls. Sirll.i ?" 
Vrs, " slu' Miiiil, Innkin^r nnind at liiin with w siMilc. 
" I like tin in vctv mm b, \\\\\ I ran <lo wiflmnl tin 



II 



in. 



Al 



\ some woinm « nn I," lie answcttM 



I drily 



"They nniHl ln' pnor « realnrt's, tlu'D. Molly and I will 
|\r intn( 'nsiMc. I have no imirc liimuil, NIr. INmmIIc; 
shakr a j.,i\v ami '^av good nmrning. I )o \v\ ns walk on, 
Alan, ir yoiM|)» not mind Ihis do^ is licgging lor mt»re, 
«nd I have nothing to give him." 

Ijrr hnshand laughed atid rose. •'Come theti," he 
said. " I shall be glad to walk. I am a little tired ol 
this tlin anil glare and glitter." 
^^ " ( )h, why did you not W\\ nie so," sai<l Stella, rallwr 
iUH)n lame J^* ■■ n'moaehlully, as she put up her dainty parasol and 



•V h\»sl>aiul, as 

at tlu> motley 

\ l)erv>re tl\en\. 



walked by his si«le. " I thought that you were liking il so 
nun h, and I never eare for < rowds of fashionable peoph . 
and batids ami seaside amusenients." 

" I suppose we were eaeh trying t») (tlease the her. 
It is a mistake to sarriht e one's own individuality for the 
supposed taste of another |)erson/' said Alan, a little bit 
(logmatit ally. 

Stella looked up at him with some annisement in the 
blue eyes that gleanu'd so brightly beneath her pretty 
shady hat, b\il (bd not speak. " What is it? " he asked, 
};laneing at her with ati answering smile. '• I believe, you 
little witeh. that you don't believe me capable of sacrific- 
ing my individuality for anybody's taste- -is that it? " 

■' Vou are capable «)f it, no doubt," sai<l Stella demurely, 
"but — it is not easy to you, is it, Alan? " 

She meant only to tease him a little, with that new 
sparkle of tun which circumstances were developing in 
!•• r. but she was surprised to see that he took the remark 



serious 



ly 



" I am very selfish," he said, with a half sigh, "but I 
(lid lu)pe — I had been trying -that you should not suffer 
by my selfishness, my dear." 

"Oh, Alan, yt)u cannot think that I nic. nt that. Why, 

vini have been kindness and generosity itself I I was only 

jesting— I only meant that your strong individuality was 

'hard to disguise; 1 had no critical intentions at all," and 




4 



. ^ 



!• s 



98 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



Stella smiled at him very sweetly, but with a little look of 
anxiety in her blue eyes. 

They had got beyond the crowd by this time, and reached 
a quiet and unfrequented part of the beach, where nothing 
but sand and sea lay before them, and where they could 
talk without fear of disturbance. Alan answered, gravely 
still. 

" You make great allowance for me, Stella ; I can see 
that you are not difficult to please. But I know well 
enough that I am morose and selfish and unattractive, 
and I must not let you sacrifice your youth and brightness 
to me." 

*♦ Why should you ? " said Stella, with a sunny look. " I 
have seldom — never, I think — had so bright and happy a 
time as I have had — lately." He took her hand in his, 
as they walked along the sea-shore together. " Is that 
true, Stella? Lately — since our marriage, you mean, dear ? " 

" Yes, Alan." 

He clasped her hand still more firmly. " Thank God ! " 
he said, with a quick sigh. " I was afraid I had done 
wrong — afraid that you would not be happy with me after 
all." 

Something rose in Stella's throat and choked her words. 
They stood still for a few moments, looking at the sea, 
over which the sun was beginning to set in a mist of| 
crimson and gold. She wished that Alan knew — ^without 
her having to tell him — how sure she felt of her future 
happiness. He relinquished her hand at last, and looked 
down at her with a tender smile. 

" I think I must have been mistaken," he said. " I 
think you seem content, Stella ? Child, if you want to be 
happy, remember one thing — you must be frank and open ; 
there must be no concealments, no half-truths — but why 
should I say this ? You are truth and candour incarnate ; 
I have never seen a shadow of insincerity upon your face. 
It is the characteristic that I love best of any in the world." 

" And I, too," said Stella, in a low voice. 

" Yes, and that was what drew me towards you, Stella. 
Your candor and truthfulness will be, I trust, the saving 
of my poor Molly." Stella shrank a little as he uttered 
his daughter's name. It was for Molly's sake, then, most 
of all, that he prized her ? Mr. Moncrieff went on, uncons- 
cious of the storm that he was raising in her heart. " Molly 



THE I.VCK OF THE HOUSE, 



99 



a little look of 



-you must have found it out for yourself — is not always 
perfectly frank. It is perhaps not her fault, altogether, 
poor child." He hesitated for a few moments and then 
( ontinued, in a much lower tone — and without looking at 
Stella : " I sometimes fear that she has inherited a ten- 
dency — an unfortunate tendency — I believe myself, that 
even hereditary tendencies are curable, but the task of 
curing them is always more dithcult, antl it is right that 

you should know " Again he stopped, having involved 

himself in a sentence of which he could not see the end. 

" Inherited ? " said Stella — for once, somewhat thought- 
lessly. *' JJut you are truthful enough ; she could not have 
inherited it from you." 

** From her mother," he answered, shortly and sternly. 
It was the first time he had spoken to Stella of his first 
wife. " I feel it my duty to tell you — to caution you. 
Otherwise I should not have spoken." 

" I beg yoi: pardon," said Stella involuntarily, " I did 
not mean to ask " 

" You were right to ask. You ought to know. Molly 
is like her mother, in face, form, and feature. In character, 
perhaps. It sounds a hard thing to say ; but I think I 
would rather see her in her grave than — in some respects 
— as her mother was." 

He spoke very bitterly, with his eyes fixed on the ground, 
and a dark look coming over his face. 

" For a long time," he said, presently, without looking 
up, " I thought that all women were like her, and I avoided 
them — till I met you. I was wrong — I believe that I was 
wrong; and perhaps I judged her harshly. I do not wish 
to condemn lightly ; but I ask you, I beg of you, to gua.J 
Molly, to watch over her, to take care lest she shouKl 
yield to any temptation to deceit and levity and folly. I 
commit her to your hands ; do what you can for her. 
Heaven knows that I would not have said a word to throw 
blame on the dead if it were not for Molly's sake — so that 
you may see how needful it is to watch her more carefully, 
and guard her more entirely than other girls." 

The thought flashed through Stella's mind that he had 
not hitherto been very wise in his methods of guarding and 
guiding his children, but she repressed it as a disloyalty. 

" I do not think that Molly is untruthful," she said, in a 
low voice. 






Mr 

ill- 

- 1" 



.iL. 






H 



i . 



i I 



I 



l^ 



it> 



ir 



IdO 



rnr htk- or tht- ffocsff. 





"Shr \% \Mv\\'\<K [\\\o\\\ \\\v Until." si»iil Mi Mnmtiir 
\\\\\\ w si^h ; " I \\\\\ siiy notlung >vmsi' nllMr. An«l MtMu. 
tiMi, I \vMr 

" Do v«>\i think." s;n.l Slrll.i. «lilVnlrntlv. " \\\,\\ \\\ Ki^^^ 
sroH*s int1nrn« r «»\)i Mnhc is ,iltonrlln'i ^und ?" 

Mr IninrM to \\v\ with .i st.itt nnti ;i Nr>r«l »«>ntiiMtinn 
of his Innw s. 

" K.ilpl) Kingsroti ' \\h\. nn ih-.n « hilil. K;il|»h is thi- 
mi>st h.Uinli's-, fellow iiMhr UimM ! \ on ilon't n|>jrt t to 

his pii'srnrr ;it I'ovn'snniM. siinh ?" 

Slrll;^ t.nu h«l th;H it WonM lu> \riv litth' \ls»' if she «li<l. 

" llr h;<^ «|oi\r t-\rn th\nj^ possihlr foj thr Im)\ 's wt'll;ni'." 
pnuTi'thd \\\\ \\\\A\.\\\\\, \\\ ,\ ;on\r\\h;\t .'innoNr*! tonr. 
" Hoini" with hiM^. t.nig!\t Inni. «.nril for hitn. likr ixw v\\\v\ 
hrothor, .is \\\\ nun of his ;i^t« \\\\\\ st;n\«fin^ uonM h.ivj 
<fono. 1 h;\\o tho gnntt'^t « onti»h'n« <« in f<,ilph Kin^s<ott. 
.•\nif 1 hop.'. (Umv St» 11;k \\\\\\ von will try lo l>f Iru'mily 
w\th hin^ \\\\y\\ wt' r»';u h I'orrrsnniir." 

*• \ w ill try." she Mnswort »1. genllv. She wislu'il ihrtl he 
\\m\ s.ii(f- "wl^i n wo roitrl^ hi'>m, . " 

Thov wore l^oth .\ IihIo sUont .-if'tiM- tlus. ft ;\hnost 
ROomctf lo Strlln .is if -^^onu^ sh;\<fow h;i«f fnllrn ;\rro8s Ium 
sunshine, some < oM hre.ith of :\ir h;\<f stoUn .uross tlu' 
\v;\rn\th of" luM hojus. Hnt ;\s thov t\irno«f. hrloro re enter 
ing their liotel. lo w;itrh tlu' glininioring lights ami ihr 
< rimson tvlfooti\>ns »>♦" the sin\set sky np«)n the sea, she felt 
her h\isl\intf"s l\i\n<l to\ioh her arm, an^l draw her i loser to 
his side. 

" \'ou see ih.il sl.ir?"he said, in ihe earossing voiie that 
vas already as mnsie in her ears. " Vo\i see how larg* 
and briglit it is ? I m\\ beginning lo mow oUl ; il will 
soon be the evening of life with n\e ; atuf you. Stella, yo'i 
are the slar that lights the ooming darkness, and gives ,i 
radiance to the night. 1 fancy, sonretimes, dear, that yon 
will f>ring me baek all my old light and joy, and that th. 
hap]>iness of Vorresmuir w ill ret\irn lo it with you that \\ . 
shall find in you the luek -or llie (r/fi<k. as the (lerman- 
vvould call it — the good fortune, the happiness of tlu 
house ! " 

And yet — it was an v>dtl thing, when one came io think 
)f it — Stella remembered at'terwards that he had never one^ 
told her that he knwl her ! 



/•//A /UCA'itr 77/ A NiU'Sf!:. 



lot 



. i\\v\ ll« tin , 
hiH Mt King 
«1 \ onli:M lion 

I. Unl|»l» i^ \\w 
\\\\\ ol»jr« 1 tt' 

\\^^v if shr »li»l. 
l>o\'«< wtllinr." 
nnu>v«'«l tone. 
K liUf \\\ »l«l«i 

\\y\\ kin^i'^' ott. 
to \w IViiiully 

\vish«Ml th.it lu' 

lis. It almost 
lion at ross W\ 
)U'n aiross tlu- 
l>rlorr vi' ontvM 
lights antl tlu- 
tho soa. sho W\\ 
hov rlosiM to 

isinp; voiro that 

SCO how laig« 

mv oUl ; it will 

i>u. StoUa. yo!i 

'ss. ami jiivi s ,\ 

dear, that you 

, anil that th. 

A yovi tlu\t w* 

s the (tonuan- 

>]nnoss — ot tlu 

1 amo to thir.lv 
had never on* ^ 



(MAP IKK XV. 



fiTKII.A R IH)MI. ( MMINJ;. 



Two ^cnllfMU'ii wrrc silling In a small privatf |»nrl«»r at 
ihc Hirnain Aims. Tliry wnr Itnil- pair aiifl luitli <lark : 
itlhtiwist' their was no! iiiik h trsrinjijamc Im-Iwimii IIhiii. 
tMu'was sonu'what crrrminah' in a|i|i»'a?anr(' ; tlu? otlur 
was tall, sinrwy. mnl vigorous Inokina liltir alliTcd from 
tlu' man to whom Stella KaelMiin lia«l «»nrc given Irt mai 
«l»n heart. John I ianninglon was hron/ed l»y scmih? wlm'Ics' 
shooting ami fishing in 'he I lighlamls, and was, if anything, 
lathei handsomer than in the days when he wooed Stella 
ninler the mined aiehes of llalineiino, Imt his fare had not 
unproved in expression. It was m«»re ryni< al, more dis<:oii- 



tented, more defiant, than it had heeii even a year ago. 
I,ife had not been going altogether well with him siinc 
then. 

His (ompanion, Ralph Kingston, was leaning haek in a 
large armchair, with a « igar hetween his lips. His sMjall 
features were lit tip with an expression of the keenest 
ainusenu'nt 

"So she had a little love affair before she < ame to 



I hinkeld ! " he was e\< laiming. 



Th 



is is most interesting. 



1 thought she UH)ked loo iimorenl for this wirked world 1 

"She's innocent enough," Ilannington was beginning 
sulkily, bul Kingseutt interrupted him with his mucking 
laugh. 

"Oh, shc'.s a lily, a SMowllake, a pearl- we all know 
that ; Moneriefl^.s besotted on herbabyfaie already. She's 
just the style he's likely to go mad about fair, gentle, 
hiue-eyed, goldenhaired, and all the rest of it as great a 
tontiast to his first wife as tould possibly be imagined." 
"What was the first Mrs. Mont rielT like, then? " 
" She was my half sister, you know. Well, she was like 
Molly, t)nly there was a little more red in her hair and the 
tint of her eye. She was fair ; of course you will say that 
tonstitutesa likeness to the present Mrs. Moncrieff, but 



• \ 



! 



I0« 



Tllh H\'K or 77ff< //r)r.VA. 



Si- i- ■ 



Bi ii 



\\\v \\\n \\\)\)\v\y wot'C not .'ilikr .» I>il. IN! oily is ut){ likr 
tbr lini ShUn. \\n n^st.mri'." 

"Shr in irti lin^i"; h.nulsrMiirv," s.ii«l jolu» HMiH^limloti. 

"I think so; Moi^i ii«-n'(|!M";n'1." "..oil K in^•;^(>ll. iptirtly 
" Shr wns -a uon\,ui \\\\\\ ;i t«Mn|MM. ;m wiM nml skiHisJi n 
nrrtl\nr .is \on (>\(V met : n (K>nton ol n tonjinr. nml mm 
r.ip.nity 'or vrstv.iining it- or hrtscU. Molly's ;< Rpilftt*'. 
bill slu' is not v\\\\:y\ to luM- tnotl\(M.'* 

" \"o\i ^\\v vo\n sistcv n nirr i h.unrtot ." 

" iriltsistiM. if yo\» ])lrrtsi\ !t mnkcsnll tl\r ilifn'ttMiriv 
M.iric nnit \ h;iil <litVi-m\t timiVir's : \hvvr wns Hnstpir Mood 
in hors, \ don't know how slir wonid h-.wv liM'd with 
Monrvirf^' n"= long ns sho did il 1 h;\d not hrrn tlictf t«» 
rn)m the two down when thoy h;\d theit litth- dispnb's 
Th.it 1 nvmngrd wvll. vott tn.ty ronrlnde front thr r;n t thnt 



1 I 



>nvo 



h.id t! 



ire «|n;ivtiMs nt I onesntmt v\v\ snn r 



I rttn 



s\ipposod to do sonitthing iyi thrw.w ol Immi Irndinu ; rni 
mv » \tb will soon go to t iiinlnidm'. 1 heliixe, :ind tin 
question will then he whether 1 ;iin to lennin oi not." 
The new Mv^ ^t^>neviefT will h.ne sonutliing to sjty to 



th.1t, 1 im.igino." snid H;innington. drily 

" Ves — confoiind her." Ho looked ;\s if he w«nild lik" 
tw \iso .1 sti-ongei word. 

" IVes she like yon inneh ? " — n;inningtint's lone w.v; 
malieion*; 

" H.ites me like poison. 1 helieve. No. 1 snp*«o?ic I 
sh.ill hive to go, l\ig ind hngg;ige, .ind in;ike nnseli" etMn 
fort.ible somewhere else. Not ;it onee ; she'll hardly h,iv. 
ni.ide her tooting sure enough, or 1 should h.ne had notiii 
Ivforo now ; h\\{ in six months or so. \{ n^uhing destroys 
hor influence in t' .' meantime." 

** Wh.it 7<'vv////destrv"»y her inlUiencc? " 

**\Vell 1 h.ive an idea or two." 

** Let's hear them.'' 

*' .\re vou on my side. Hannington? The girl hehaved 
shabbily to von. you say " 

"Cut me in the presence of lialt' a do/en o\ my IViend- 
Ves. she ni.ide it rather awkward for nu\ Vou knvnv l,ad\ 
Valencia (tilderoy P-^an old frien<i of mine. She made up 
her mind that 1 had given tlie girl good cause for oflen« * . 



am' 



i has turned the ct^ld shoulder to me ever 



sine 



tlon> 



me a gt>v 



xi deal of misihiet, 1 (\in tell vou ! 



Oh, nobodv minds l,adv Val ; 1 know her,"sai(l Kmi; 



on's \ntu' W;v 



Ttrn t.VvK or fnt^ nov^n.. 



i«j 



\v;.l( hfill «v»' iipnu his friend " Still, MisM Slrllri rrum* !»»• 
;i spitiliil liltic inifix. \«Mi \v(»iil(l »i(»t olijef I to see ficr 
|iti(|i' liMvc !i ImII, lilt ti ? '* 

" Nr., I c^lu.llMlj't." 

" Anil jl is. ol roiirsc, iiiy inlrrrsi In lessen licr Ififln^nre 
;m m'i« li MS |MtsMil»k'. \V(II, tlicrr fire two wnys In whiV h 
In »|t» il." 

" Two?" 

" ( MiL' I'll Vvvy f(i iny^clf," said K in^^fof t, with an iij(ly 
•^milc. " Ww oilier drjicnds soniewli.it on yrjii. Yon s.'iy 



vn!i Imvc 



Irll 



f'ts Ifftni lifr? 



ll;iinnnglnn'T rn»:»' (lilshcd. 

" I did not sny I \v(»nld show tlwrn," he nn<4Wf»ff'(1, 
•In^mMlly. 

" \ on clid iiol sny so. Jhit what If you let Moncfieff 
li.ive rt, ^Imimc Ml Ihrni ? " 

llMnniiif^hni shifted nnt'Msily in his rhnir. 

" I dcMi'l SIM' the use of llinl,'* hr snid. 

" Von don'l ? " inrrcdnlonsly. 

" No, I don'l." 

" Why, doi»'l y«ni know IhnI Al.in Mojirrierff is thn most 
jr;d(Mis, ihc most siispirifins innn nlive ? If I know nny- 



'hina of women, my dcMi |m( k, she wrni't hnve told him a 
\V(M(I .'diont von, (M- {)\\\y whnl she plenses ; and she will he 
ntortidly aliaicl of his j^ettin^ lr» know the trne .state of the 



< ;ise 



" Well," ^fiowled I Innnin^tfm, " the wny to pnnish lirr^ 
then, will he to ihieat'-n her, to hold the letters over her 
iic.'ul, and give her a good fright. J nhonldn't mind doing 
Ihat." 

"Onr nims dilTer," snid Kingsmtt, throwing himself 
h.n k lazily in his rhair, and lighting a fresh < igar. " Yon 
want merely to inmish her I waul to spoil her inlluenee 
with Mon< rielT; there's the difference." 



Can't we do both ? " snggesled his rompanion, s 



lowly. 



riien there was a little silem e, dnting which eaeh rnan 
smoked iiidustrioiisly, and revolved his own ijlans. When 
Kingsiott next spoke, he .seemingly (hanged the snbjcct. 
"So you saw Molly at the Lawsons this autumn?'' he 
said. •' She isn't a bad looking girl, i« she ? 

• I M..t .-» ..11 )> 



»» 



Not at all 

She'll have a fair fortune," said Molly's uncle. " She 




*r*j. % \. 




















» t 




t 












^ 


. 






* 





11; ■ 

I! 



104 



THE LUCK or THE HOUSE, 



has her mother's money — come s into it at her marriage, or 
when she is twenty -one." 

"Indeed? Much?" 

"Twenty-five thousand. Nothing to a fellow like you. 
But it v.ill add to Molly's attractions." 

He thought that he caught sight of an odd glitter in 
John Hannington's black eyes. But he went on discreetly. 

" Moncrieff has the idea that he ought to tie her up very 
tight — I think he's married pretty Stella with the idea of 
getting a gaoler for his poor child. She'll not be allowed 
to come out till she is past her teens, or mix with the world 
at large until she's three-and-twenty. Before then, how- 
ever, Alan will have found her a model husband, some 
worthy, prosy, neighboring laird, who will keep her in or- 
der, and bury her in a dull mansion in the Highlands 
nine months in the year ; and that will be poor Molly's 
future fate. " 

" Not a bit ! " said Hani.ington, abruptly. She'd not 
stand it, my dear fellow. She would bolt." 

" She had better bolt before marriage than after," was 
Kingscott's cynical response. To which his friend made 
no answer, but sat with his eyes fixed Intently upon the 
opposite wall, and his foot moving meditatively to and 
fro. * 

" We'd better be goinc, I think," said Ralph at last, 
after looking at his watch. " The train's due, and I must 
be on the spot to give Mr. and Mrs. Moncrieff their wel- 
come. Will you come too ? '" 

" Not I, I'll see Mrs. Moncrieff some other day — no 
fear." 

"You won't call?" 

" Don't know." 

" I thought that you were :o very friendly with Molly ! 
She gave me quite a touching account of your attentions 
to her.'' 

" She had better not say anything of that sort to her 
step-mamma!' 

" No, no ; I'll warn her. Shall I say that you are sorry 
you won't see her again ? '' 

Hannington's lip curled. " You want to know my plans, 
I see ? Well, they are not decided. But one thing I am 
sure of. I don't leave Mr. Pople's inn just yet, I can tell 
you. I am very well off where I am, and mean to stop." 



r marriage, or 



low like you. 



»ther dav — no 



at sort to her 



you are sorry 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



loS 



Kingscott nodded and smiled. " All right. If you stay 
where you are for the next half hour you w 1 see your old 
flame most likely. I ordered the open carriage to be sent 
down. Now I must go and find my cub — I hooe he's all 
right. I left him in the bar." 

"You can bring him here with you some night for a 
game of Nap," said Hannington. '' He can get out at 
nights, I suppose?" 

" Oh, yes ; thanks to the door in the Tower and his kind 
uncle. Ta-ta, Ja< k. I'll remember you to Molly." 

And then Kingscott went downstairs to seek Bertie, with 
whom he meant to go to the railway station, to welcome 
the bride and bridegroom home. Molly had refused to 
come. She had '•eturned from her visit to the Lawsons in 
a rather odd state of mind ; she seemed excited and spirit- 
less by turns ; and in this condition her uncle had found it 
easier to make friends with her than he had ever done 
before. It had occurred to him that Molly might be useful 
in the furtherance of his schemes, and therefore he took 
pains to be agreeable to her. Molly, feeling sore a..d 
bitter still, becuise of wh.^t she styled "Miss Raeburn's 
treachery," was only too glad to find some one into whose 
ear she might pour her woes without rebuke. She ':oon 
told, moreover, t^^at she had seen some one at Miss Law- 
son's whom she liked very much — a gentleman who had 
told her she was the most beautiful girl in the world — a 
Mr. John Hannington. And was it possible that Uncle 
Ralph knew Mr. Hannington — had known him for many 
years, and liked him very much ? Molly's prejudice 
against her uncle went down like the walls of Jericho when 
the trumpets had been blown. And all this information* 
was turned by Mr. Kingscott to the very best account. 

He could not find Bertie for some time, and began to 
feel half vexed and half alarmed by the lad's disappearance, 
especially as he received a hint from the attendant that the 
young gentleman seemed a wee bit fond of a drap. " Fond 
of a drap ! " — what on earth could the man mean ! thought 
Kingscott irascibly. Bertie had surely not been such an 

idiot 

He never finished the sentence to himself At that very 
moment, he heard a bell ringing, and ran .viih all his 
might up the hill to the railway station, where Mr. Mon- 
crieff 's carriage and half a dozen other vehicles were in 






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|iiuvl»'»l MllHIfi lllf tMflt) lit |MMf«(Mltllf. sit/' Int'l 0((lv H 
V'IfMH' ll'M'lc m| nhtll l«M(l lt;<)t)i'l(C(j AlMM'n '}lfi«(<^H ttllif^ 
I'll M. KMl|th l< IH|;'!( Mill (ll'ilttMv. M'»li»'''! nlf/fffl/^ lMn|<'i, /liM 

cMUMlnli'iliiu MmIIv nilliMHl lif«r liii'!)(/<((«l fd hit nU\f*. 



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iliMllI Hlfil !MVMv Ih fuMicf M fcf'ldf ffiMfifirr wfiffi if vvftn 
•U'l'h lIlMl M»M M«Mir«i<'n nrMlpiffl if fflOftf, Muf "ih^ 

IiimImmI t<M lu'tiiillliil (iii»l M(fill»'/I mi nwt'(\ ff rr'«if/of(«t^ P^ 
lo llu'lt ^f^'»•^lt1|/, llml if WMM r*'fM'wr/l wifh f^flfolM ffi^ |/f^ 
vImiim tf'tvMi liMh'»'«l llu* crtrrifij^i" linH fo 1'^ '!f</(»|>'/| 
ItM !i mllilllf n» Iwn, nit fliMf tin olH ^,MifMh •^(»^f ffii^hf 



iil!ll<f lli'i lifllr 'i|t»M'r li n( wj-ImiUm-, ih wliirfi h'- Wi'\\U'<\ 
llii(»| 5iu"t'i Mini uihmI fnifuiM- f(» flir* fH'W ffii«!frrM«! <if ittr 
f*'«m(iit Ml. MMiiriii-fT liMfl wntuoil M.-ilpfi flif»f If 'li'l 
iml wiHil MMv iMimiil feM'"|»liMM itt wt')ititt\t' ftf nny kind, 
lull Ml. Kiiif^Mittii |iM<l Itf'ffi iififiM^ fn pr^vffif nome* ilight 
ilcniMimlitilJHii Mil III!' pMfl (it fhc 'iiif riodf fficfj, wh^», f.'r'»r^ 
lliiin III*' in ilniii 'U'lvjilifM, Wfff «1i'!|(0')C<1 fo l»c pUnsr-d 
Ihiil llii'li' WMH linw In Ik- h mi<ifr('«^rj " up nf ffi'- hou^c." 
Tlir Imiiflp BcivmifH were lf'«« ini lirifd fo f»^ f\t\\y\tfH). 
'llu'V lirtd liiul llipji own way fat mo lon^ flmf fl^y fcf^rcf} 
M liuly'w nile MIhm M(»lly rountin^ for nofliinj^ '.n fbcif 
oycM. 

Slellii ('X|,lrtlli('«1. wifh M lifllo Idiisli ntx) ni^h, 'finf Mr. 
Mom licff wim (Icfnincd .-if flw sf.ifiun ntu] would follo-v/ 
ucHciilly, l"il ''Ih' miM«mI (liirMlcfilly fli.if shr Oiou^ht fh^y 
uul betU'i mil wnit fur liim rt«i he might be late, and— 



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I'lMllHlMlrly mIic IrlUcfliliMfd lllfll Allfll lf1< |r V wrt«i fo hf I 

itii-'d'Ml til TniicMoiiili Ihfii cvfiiiiiji • find if 'ih/* wt'tt' ^fl^f^ 
llii- |d!li (' WMlfld liol Iw «in lin hnni'fll?/' Mh<f .'ill 

Mill Ilif titilviil wtot fi liliil Ih HO'IIm*') f'|(i(ifiifnifv At 
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uviM ihi' M'^l^ I M' MoiH f i'tf hdd oiill'- fof(/off/'f( fhfif finy 
•till h fi'i i'|iHoii n'M'i liltcly lo hnvf Iicmi d^'vi'U-d Kv-ry 
ImmIv mI'I il|t fi mIioiiI toi Hit" rrOM :^f' rfone i((«< ImiI fh' 



io8 



THh: iii'K or 77//'; f/orsr-:, 





nn«l -wrts tired .iiu! uinvell. So tlio men ctisiicrscd, nml 
tliii \w\ nt o?u r;Urli \\\c inraniim of tlu' ^lanro niul llio 
wink Nvbii h tho ro.\« Inn.in ot\ ll\c ho\ brstowrd t»n thcin. 
Thoy lumg .ihout tlu' staMos alU-i wnnls. howrvcr, to Irani 
its moaning ; and wore vorv soon t'nlighti't\i'(l. lUMtic's 
vacant looks and staggtMing to«»tstc|)s ncedrd lu) iitterprc- 
tatio!! to tluMn or to Mrs. Mom riofl". 'Vhv whole honsc- 
lu>ld kiu'w what l\a»l happened long luMore the master of 
the honse rame home. 

U was Miss Jaeky who thing herself in Stella's arms 
,ind gave her a really hearty weliome, as slie had done 
not eighteen n>onths hefore, when the girl eame home 
from sehool. The servants were waiting in the hall, l>iil 
they did not give the new mistress anv very amialde li»oks, 
altho\igh they behaved with outward ri^spiM t and deeornm. 
Molly eame iorward languidly, with sneh an abatement of 
her old vivacity that Stella felt a pang o\ grief attd alarm 
as she noted her altered manner, and kissed the cheek 
that was oflored rather formally for her salnte. 

" Is papa not with you ? " There was a lv)iich of 
sharpness in Ntolly's tone. " And l^ncle Ralph and l]er- 
tic — where are they ? "' 

•* They are ioming presently : I left them at the station," 
said Stella, holding Aunt jacky by the hand as she entered 
the drawing room. " I think— 1 am afaid — Hertie was 
not very well, and they stayed to attend to him." She 
hope*l thai her version t^f the story might be true. 

" N<>t well — they stayed, and you did not stay ? " 
said Molly, lov>king at Sidla with eyes in whicl. a new 
susi)ieiousness had crept. " Why did you come away ? " 

** Vour father wished mc to come." 

" I shall ask Macgregor," said Molly. She was darling 
to the door when Stella caught her arm. 

" Don't go, Molly darling. Don't ask. They wid be 
here very soon ; there is nothing seriously amiss, I hope. 
l>on't question the servants. " 

*' Why should I not question them ? " said Molly the 
impetuous. *' They are all old friends of mine, and they 
would answer truly and faithfully, which perhai)s you 
dont want to do. Mrs. MoncriefT. " Stella shrank a little, 
and turned ]\\le as the girl thing this taunt into her face. 
" 1 am not going to alter my old ways for any new comers,'' 
and with these words Molly escaped from the detaining 
hand, and rushed out of the room. 



7'/M' /rcA* ot Tit/'i froVsf<. 



tCH) 



Slrll.i snnk »1i)Wii on llic lu'.'jrcft rliair. Ttrr Hp« wore 
Iri'inliling mikI IIh- Icms wvvv in In r eyes. 

"Oil, my tic.iric, don't vmi fash ynur-u^lf," s;ii<l Aunt 
|;uky. kissing licr, ;in«l ihcn wiping her <»\vn eyes. " Slu-'s 
jiisl lull of l.intrnnis, mikI hIu-'II got over tluMn by and by. 
\ou«<»ine n|» to your own room, my bonnii* Ifissic, and 
Ity by >'">• IxMincl. Nour good man's oti the road, I'll 
virrant, ami lu'll soon set tlii»igs to rights." Aunt jac ky 
li.id an imimnsf admiration lor Alan MoncriclT. 

Sho askiMl no (|U('stions, f(tr she saw that Sti da was 
near wtrping, and alTcction gave her an unusual amount 
nltarl. She wiMil upstairs with her, and hel(>ed her to 
to take off lu'r walking things. "Dinner to be served 
,it eight, and it is more than halt'itast seven now," she 
said. " Are you going t(» dress, my lammiei*" 

•• I suppose I had better ; I don't know what 1 ought 
r» do," said Stella. " \'es, I will wear my silver-grey 
«lress, Aunt Jaeky ; I think that perhaps I ought — though 
I feel very anxious — and very " 

She did not < onelude the sentence, and yXunt Jaeky still 
/isked no ^piesti-.ms. 

"Won't you vtar white, my dear? Surely you should 
look like a bride when your husband finds you in his 
home." 

" Oh, not to-night — nc \ to-night," said Stella, hurriedly. 
'Tiiere was nothing of bridal joyousness in her heart just 
then. 

As she A'as dressing, she heard the sound of wheels in 
\1ie rt)ad outside, but the vcliicle did not drive up to the 
iVonl door. It stop|)ed at a side gate. From the footsteps 
tnal she afterwards distinguished ujjon the gravel, she 
guessed th.at her husband and his companions entered the 
house l)y the door in the t;)wer. 5-'he waited for a little 
while, but Mr. MoncriefT <lid not appear. Then she went 
to the drawing-room and sat almost in silence with Aunt 
);uky and Molly until, at half-past eight, Alan came in 
and made a grave formal apology for his lateness. Ralph 
followed him, but Bertie did not appear. Molly began a 
question, but was stopped by a warning from her uncle. 
It was plain that Bertie's existence was for the present to 
be ignored. 

Stella's first dinner in her own home as a married woman 
was one that she could never recall without a shudder. It 



'i- 



I: t 



A 



\ ; 



II 



i\ 



)i 



I 



I 



no 



THE UfCK OF THE HorsE. 



.u 



• 

W.1S so lonjj;, so dreary, so ntispcakahly unromfortftble. 
Her lnisl>;nul iiininl.iiiUMl almost entire silence, except 
when his oH'u e forced him to speak ; he looked white, old, 
and dejected. Miss jacky .iiid Ralph Kingscotl had so 
great an aversion to each other that they always found it 
difticult to keep the peace. Molly spoke only in monosyl- 
lables. Stella felt obliged to throw herself into the breach, 
and try to make conversation, but she was not very 
successful in her efforts. Nobody seemed better able to 
eat than to speak ; and every one was glad when the meal 
came to an end. 

Alan and his brother-in law remaitied in the dining-room 
for some time longer, while Stella talked a little to Miss 
jacky, and tried to interest Molly in an account of her 
travels. Hut Molly refused to be interested. She sat 
stiflly in an upright chair, and looked at a book of photo- 
gnphs while Stella talked. Ikit in spite of her stiffness 
and her sulkiness Stella could not but notice how much 
she was improving in dress, manner, and appearance. 
Her visit to the Lawsons had done her good. She only 
wore a simple white frock and a silver ornament or two, 
but there was a neatness and daintiness about jier way of 
wearing them which differed from her habits of former 
days. Her hair no longer hung about her shoulders, but 
was gathered into loose, picturesque coils about her shapely 
head. Her complexion was more dazzling than ever, and 
her eyes seemed to have gained tire and softness. In short, 
Molly was on the high-road to becoming a beauty, if she 
was not one already. And as she sat in a highbacked 
chair, with the* soft lamplight gleaming on her ruddy 
bronze hair and the white and roseate tints of her clear 
skin, Stella scarcely wondered \ ^ see her father stop short 
for a moment when he came into the room, as though her 
appearance had positively startled him. Indeed, she 
learned afterwards that Molly was growing wonderfully 
like her dead mother, and that the likeness had never 
struck him so much as it did just then. 

Miss Jacky rose at the stroke of ten, and declared that 
she must go home. The carriage was soon at the door to 
convey the good old lady to the pretty cottage, which, in 
spite of all loneliness, she had declined to leave. Mr. 
Moncrieff had suggested that she should make Torresmuir 
her home, but she had refused to give up her independence. 



-^^.^g. i-wjWj'TiH 



tnn i.Uik' Oh TifE novsh. 



tit 



Ami she knew, besides, llmt Stella would lake her proper 
place as mistress k^^ the house more easily if she were not 
eneunibered >\ ilh an elderly maiden aunt. In all which, 
Miss jaeky showed her excellent sense. 

When she was ^one, Molly, with uniooked-for temerity, 
faced her father defiantly in the drawinj;-rooni. " I want 
to know, papa," she sai(l, undismayed by Mr. Monc.riefT's 
frown, "what is wrong with IJertie? 1 have been to his 
room, and he won't let me in. Is he ill?" 

'• I do not su|)p()sc that he is ill as much as suffering 
from the ci isecpiences of his own folly," said her father. 
His face was pale and set, his eyes looked hard as flint, 
from which, nevertheless, fire was being struck. ** You 
will leave him alone for the present, Molly. I do not 
wish you to go near him." 

" Why should I not go near him if he is ill ? " said Molly, 
holding her h( ad high. It was wonderful to see how much 
courage she had gained since her father's second marriage 
and her visit to the Lawsons. Stella gave her an entreat- 
ing look, but Molly would not heed. 

"Why not?" Alan Moncrieff s[)oke with exceeding 
bitterness. " Because he has disgraced himself and us — 
l)ul)licly disgraced us, as I never thought a son of mine 
would do. Because he has chosen — not for the first time, 
I hear — to drink and quarrel and bet at a public bar, and 
to appear intoxicated in the public streets. That is why 
you may not go to him ; for until he has at least shown 
some signs of repentance and amendment, I desire that he 
be left to himself, and I forbid any one to go to his room 
save at my request." 

Molly's color faded, and licr lips began to tremble, but 
her eyes flashed. 

" And so you want me to desert him 1 " she cried, in an 
angry, faltering voice. " I don't care what he has done ; 
he is my only brother, and I love him. If you loved him, 
too, you would forgive him. But you don't care for us 
now ; you only care for her " — pointing to tne dismayed 
Stella — " and the sooner we leave you and get out of the 
way, the better you will be pleased." 

And then Molly fairly burst into tears and rushed out of 
the room, which was perhaps the best thing that she could 
do, for her father's face was white with anger, and the 
frown on his brow would at any other time have carried 



r h- 



\\ 



■-♦- 1 ■ 



» I 



I r* 



. I 



rrf! 



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'I 




1^1 



rnr. trcK or rnr norsfi. 



consternation to Molly's lu;nt. lie wouM liavo followed 
her to the door, had Stella's han«ls not lallen pleadingly 
upon his arn\. 

"Oh, Alan, don't n\ind ! Her heart is very sore, i>oor 
child, and she does not know what she is saying. She 
will be sorry to n\orrow ; inileed. she will." 

Mr. Kingseott had left tlie room, and Stella, finding 
herself alone with her husband, was impelled to put her 
arm half roiind his neck, and to lay her head caressingly 
upon his breast. Alan could not have torn himself away 
fr<un that gentle bondage without a struggle. After the 
first involuntary movement he did not try. He drew her 
closer to him. and pressed her forehead with his lips. 

*' Vou are the only < omfort that I have left," he said. 
•* It has been a sad home coming for you, Stella. I pray 
(rod that life may yet brighten a little — for us both." 



CHAriTER XVII. 




iii % 




IIKUTIK. 

BiTT Alan MoncriclT's anger, hotly as it burned against 
the son who had disgraced, and the daughter who had de- 
tied him, died away into sadness and disappointment, which 
was much more lasting and much harder for those who 
loved him to endure. He was extremely shocked and dis- 
tressed 'o tind that Bertie had taken many steps in a down- 
ward course, which he had never dreamed that the lad was 
likely to tread at all. A few careful and confidential inquiries 
in the town elicited the tact that Bertie was by no means as 
ipiiet and home-loving as his father had always credited 
him with being ; that he was well known in various very 
questionable resorts, and that he had a great love for 
cards. Whether the gambling passion had yet been exci- 
ted within him, Mr. Moncrieff found it hard to ascertain. 
Bertie, on being questioned, acknowledged that he played 
for money, but only, he said, for small stakes. He had 
no debts ; he did not care for betting ; he drank only 
because " other fellows" did. When pressed to state 
** what other fellows ? " he became silent, and looked 
utterly miserable. When asked who first introduced him 



THE I.VCK OF THE HOUSE. 



>«3 



to the low society wliirli lu- had bcmin to f'riM)iu'nt, he at 
tirst refused lu answer, and then said that ixihody had 
iiitrodueed him ; lie liad souf^hl these people <»f his own 
free will. Mr. Monerieff had scarcely any alternative but 
to believe him. And yet he was .suspi<:ious — of what, of 
whom, he could not exactly tell. 

Stella'.s sus|)i( iofis were nuu h moredehnite. She firmly 
believed that Ralph Kinj^scott was at the bottom of 
bertie's disgrace ; and that he was responsible for the boy's 
grailual declension. But when she hinted this view of the 
( ase to her husband, she was ni * with an expression of 
( old displeasure which silenced her at once. Mr. Mon- 
(rieffhad never been anything but satisfied with Ralph, 
lie said. Ralph was a man of high ( hara( ter and 
good ability, who had given up his career expressly for the 
juirpose of making himself useful to his sister's husband 
and children. Stella felt vaguely that Alan was mentally 
accusing her of jealousy, Jid of a mean desire to get his 
first wife's relative out of the house, and she forbore to 
sjjcak another word. But she was not convinced of Ralph's 
honor and uprightness even yet. 

She overheard a scrap of conversation which confirmed 
her secret suspicions in a rather curious way. She want- 
ed to talk to liertie — who had not yet made his appear- 
ance in public after his escapade — and Mr. Moncrieff 
had told her that she would probably find him in the 
Octagon Room, where he generally pursued his studies 
under Kingscotl's superintendence. Thither Stella be- 
took herself about six o'clock on«,' evening. Two days 
jiad elapsed since her arrival at Torresmuir, and she had 
not yet seen the boy, over whom her heart yearned with 
a sensation of intolerable grief and pain. She came quietly 
through the long gallery — so (juietly that her footsteps 
made no sound upon the polished floor — and paused for a 
moment before she drew the portih-c before the entrance 
to the Octagon Room. She paused simply to collect her 
thoughts, to renew her courage ; but in that pause voices 
fell upon her ear. 

"You'll do nothing of the kind," Ralph Kingscott was 
saying coolly. " If you say one word about it, I'll tell 
your father the whole of that little transaction of yours 

with Vinner, and then " 

** No ! oh, no 1 " Bertie's voice, lull of agitation and 

8 



! 



1 , 



i ! 
i ' i , 



f 1 



: x 

: : '■:' 



IT4 



77/A- rrCK OF THE HOUSE. 








!• 


li.;« 


> 


li ■' 


A 


' '1 



appeal, was licard to say, "Oh, don't toll him that. TTc 
would never forgive nie. I will do anything you like — 1 
won't say a word " 

And then Stella drew the eurtain aside, and found, as 
she hud already divined, that tht door was open. Bertie 
was lying on a sofa, his head half buried in the cushions ; 
Mr. Kingsrott was lounging in an arm chair with his arm 
behind his head. He cast a look of positive hatred at 
Stella as she came in ; a look in which malignity and 
cunning were so blended that she did not like to re- 
member it afterwards, although at the time itself it pro- 
duced little impression upon her. 

" Mrs. MoncriefT! " he exclaimed, starting to his feet, 
with a sort of disagreeably exaggerated politeness. "We 
never expected this honor, did we liertie ? My young 
pupil and I seem to have had a prescriptive right to this 
l^art of the house for so long that we are quite unused to 
visitors. But of course we must look for changes now." 

'J'here was a subtle sting in this remark which was not 
lost upon Stella's perceptions, but she did not choose to 
attend to Mr. Kingscott's insinuations at that moment. 
She turned at once towards Bertie, who did not raise his 
face from the i)illow against which it was pressed. She 
could read shame in the boy's very attitude, and she hasten- 
ed to lay her hand gently on his head, without heeding 
Mr. Kingscott's presence. 

" Bertie I " she said, softly, " Bertie I have you no word 
for me?" 

She felt her hand taken and carried to the boy's lips, 
but he did not say a word. Moved by a sudden impa- 
tience, she looked round at Mr. Kingscott. " I should like 
to speak to him alone for a few minutes," she said. " You 
will excuse me if I ask " 

" Oh, certainly. You have every right to command, " 
said Kingscott, bowing with the ironical politeness which 
he had alieady shown to her. " Will leave you with your 
stepson by all means, Mrs. Moncrieff." 

Stella felt that there was something unpleasant — some- 
thing even vaguely insulting — in his manner, but she did 
not choose to resent it. She waited, with her hand in 
Bertie's grasp, until his uncle had retired. Mr. Kingscott 
went into his own room and closed the door of commu- 
nication. Not till then did Stella feci free to sink down 



you no word 



THE /.rcK or Tin-: ironsK. 



•»5 



on her knccR brsidc TUrlic's sofa, and spcalc to him in 
soft, rarrcssiii^ tones. 

•' Dear Bertie, wc are all so sorry. And you arc sorry, 
too." 

Then the boys' grief broke forth. Wc burst into a 
storm of choking, overjjowering sobs, \\\ which all his at- 
tempts at speech were lost. Jt was some time before the 
words became arti( idate. 

" I didn't mean it — I never thought what I was doing— 
1 shall never be able to look you in the face again ! " These 
were the first wt)rds that be< ame audible. 

'• I know, dear ; I understand." 

** Just when you came home — just when you expected a 
welcome — for me to disgrace you so ! And my father — 
he'll never forgive me ! " 

" Oh ! yes, he will, liertie. If you are sure that you have 
told him everything that he ought to know — and if for the 
future you do right." 

Bertie did r.ot speak. From the tremor that ran through 
his whole frame, Stella felt thai her words had gone home. 

'* Is there not anything thai you have kept from your 
father, Bertie? Is there not something that he ought to 
know ? " 

♦* You — you heard me speaking — as you came in ? " 

" Yes, dear." 

** Oh, don't tell, don't say anything to my father," said 
the boy, raising himself for the first time, and turning an 
anguished face upon her. ** It is not my secret — at least, 
it is nothing — nothing much " 

" Then why are you so much afraid of his knowing ? " 

" I should like him to know ! Oh, I wish I could tell 
him everything ! " 

" You mean," said Stella, slowly, " that your uncle, Mr. 
Kingscott, will not allow you to speak?" 

The boy cowered down, with his face in the cushion 
again. Stella grew a little indignant. 

" Why are you afraid of him ? " she said. " Why do you 
not throw otThis bondage, and be perfectly frank and open ? 
You think he will tell your father of things that you v, ant 
hidden? but why do you hide thjm? why not make a full 
confession of everything wrong, and start afresh? Be 
brave, dear Bertie, and tell your father all." 

But Bertie only groaned and muttered, " You don't 
know. You would not say so if you knew everything." 



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\\\\\ .11 \)\\'^ IVviio frll 1nt^^ r^in h ,^ ^^,n^^\^•^1u <M IrmM. 

TxNV u\r l\inivr. ^hr tvh \)vit ««t^r W;^-; \in;\Mr to <io twotx' lot 
^Mn^, f\\\\\ \\^\\\\\ \^y\\\ \\\S]'^v \\\.\\ hv \\i\\\\i\ Vvvy In-? wohI 

Hrv l.ltv f:lihin' tx^ tn^|^^x^s<^ Mt ^^^n^^\^1V \\\\\\ MW \\\^\\h\ 
ot K,ll]">h K11^^is^■x^tt .l<Ur\^ to hot f»~ltt« l;iu< o to ttt.tko :\\y\ 
.1\x \ts,-\tt\M\ \M OviT jixMMl\ t^^;t^V S^',,- tWIilo \1]^ hot ttttttil. 
tWtVtxMV. t>> NV.Itt lot ;\ \\\\\\' A\'\\\ SVV \\\\.\\ h:\\^\^V\\x'\\ . TtM 

tVtur *.tvmox^ '<tt^xr^^^h tx^pxM\t;tt\t. a\\\\ hA\\ )Mx>\\ttsr(l to 

.'\mxM'^<^^t«^ NXMV<v. ,inx^ t1 ^>0 \1tx1 .1*; lu^ \\:\k\ ^Mx^tt^tso^^ thiMx 
>\\MlM vntx^h JNr nvx nx^x^x^ tx^ s,l\ ,in\lhtt\|i, Shx^ \\ot\»lotxMl 
,1tVx lNV.1t\U WhxMhxM .1 h\\\\' X \'>\V.1t'<^oo hM\ ttOt ^^tOtttptiHl 
Vhis x^OxMSUM^ ; hut sW NNMS t^xxt ;\x t\l.lllv x \>t^Si tx^tlS Ot tt :\\ 

\):\\\ Momvix^f^ \\.is \Nni\ tx^x^ ^hy\ to bo ,tMo [o .lox-ofxl .1 
t\\v f A\^^x^t^ (x^ his hoy. A\'\\\ SivW^ t\ It th;\t Itx^v it\tx^<-x'osstx>t^ 
h.ixl TixM bxvtt tinrtx Milinji iti btingtt\u .1 tv\>>t\xi]t.ition ,il>otii 
,it .in xmvItv xiitv thin i^xMtu' hi\1 «A^H^xtx^b 'V\w bov \v.\s 
Nvn wtiT^h htimMxVv b\ his xltsutixv ; lov it ootiU] \\\h W 
xVnixNi th.1t own <>no in thx^ no\g11bov1^\^v^^^ \\;is .i\v.ni^ xxf 
VfH'" fM\ th.n hx^ h.ixi bxvn Mvn ttn^^ov il\o it^<^\txM^\vxMxittt^k 
<^n^sk^o ihv r.itlw-.iA stition. ^^n tho ovx^\'tit\ji \M hts 5tx^]> 
rtv^thotN .iniv.ll ; .iml it nv.is tho pnblixMtv x^t" tho tnoidont 
>^■hTt^h it^tlxM )vign.ino\ to hiv f;ithor\ gvix^ .is xvoU .is his 
x'^xx n htimib.itvn It x\.is r^xvit1x\^ tlMi ho shv>\iKi bo sot\l to 
.1 intor's .It tho Nox> VvMt ; .in^i itt tho ttixMntitno ho wis tx> r<' 
miin nmVv Mv. Kinji>\\">rtV tuition .in^l i;tiitHii,it\slii]>. Svoll;i 
wonM h^nv Kvn Vttov s.<itis<ixsi if ho h.ixl ij>xno .it x^^^xv . 
but, Assho K<N>n tonttxl hor hnsKinxl t^iil not hko ptxvipit;tto 
sx^tix'xn. arsx^ it xx-^s nwloss to nvco him to i^o \xh.it ho k\u\ 
not h'ko. Tt TV MS o.isv to tVTW^iw th.1t .ilthoniih ho m .is .ibx .t\ ^ 
kind smi ooiirt<\Mis .in<1 ^\xnsi<1x^t\iix^ tx"t\XMt\1s hof, it \\.\s 
not sho xxho h.^<1 inflnomv with hint in pr.ix^tio.il tn;Utors, 
bnt his lirst wito's hrorhx^r. K.ilph Kinv:'s<\>tt. Ho xxms 
jjuoromo. snd M-.-s. Mononofi -althotu^h sho s,\l xit the hoad 



T5 



THh: rrr^' or- i/fr-: //»<r'.vA'. 



117 



o\'\\u' l;«Mr. iliul nnlrltil lite tlilllU'l, iMut Mll|i»l vi'Ufl Mnlly'rt 
imliiM.riHil hM I jMil \ i'liiiii't Mt'i Mum ficfr whm m « i(tlirr 

Om- t»l SIcIIm'i lit'il \ iiiliMM \v;i') I.Milv Viilrtit ill (»il»l«fMy. 
! :\th V;tl livi'tl with :( U iilnWiil 'ii-iIlM ill ii jitrHy l'"l'' 
limi'<r ■\\u)\\\ Ihr (tiilfi liititi rufU'muilir, Mtid mIh* liml 
Km>\vn lh«- MnniiirM'! Ini iti.iin \i'inM. 'IIm' Mi««h'i, Mrs, 
I.etUMH. hiUl liliti HMJilr :lll iilllWMnl h !H (••< of wiilnwluiod, 
tiMriViMl :» m»ni| drul n| 1 ntMp;lliV. itml W;1m filli- nf Hu' liuml 
)M»|MO;n WinmnntHlir I tnmli \ litlr. Imlv Vitl w ic. |w»|(iilfu, 
:\\'u\, \\\\\ \\\ w i|ilV«'HHI \\i\\. She wmm i(|»iih"tl Id Im* uiu' of 
ll\c tnoMi '•Kiljul MUil 'diMUK'li "i^ MiilM In Ihr rmiiilv, ithd 
!ilrll.t IiIomI IIw trpnri ihiil -ilif liffiid ul lici 'io lilll*', ihdt 
^h^• l\:ill inv.''.inl!nilv iniivfil l.nily Viil wllli hum h mIIIT 
nr"^<<, :ind shnwi'il lt\ hi 1 iictmiti ihnl mIip hml no ^tnil 
ilc'UM' lo ;..• ,1 liirinl Ml hi'iM. Mill liuly VmI wji'nmdi'iiiuiyr'i. 
" I lil<r ihr hull' Ihin^, !<nd I'm uniim In lie IrirndM willi 
luM." ^\\v \v\\\.\\\i.vi\ In hri niMlrf. H't llicy tlrovc liome to 
grlhiM Mllrv lhri« lii'U (.ill ; " 'ut hIm- mimmIu'I |nil nil her 
ron\p;n\v \\»;innrm (ur \\\y\ I'll 'u»i»n m'l ri<l oI'iIimI." 

" Shv'H v«'vy nuicl." MMid Mi'«. LrniuM. " I <Imu'I sro 
\\\\u\\ lo liUr '\\\ \\v\, V.d. I wiMidn wh.il AlfHi MnnrricfT 
tnwtud hn lot. Hci picll v Imi r, ! mi|i|in«»«. I IJHMif^iit 

" Nn \\\:\\\ h;i'< Miyv sonm* where m prclly fm e im ron^ 

rnnod." sitid l.ulv V.-d. derisively. " lliil I ihink ihetr's 

\\u)\v \\\:\\\ \\\.\\ \\\ Ml". MoHriii>n' She imisl imve smm; 
eh;ni\\lev. I liiury." 



She did no! snv why she ^h^Ml^hl mo 



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think 



ii\}) vM lh;\t .nilmun d.iv when sjie ;ind |ohn llanningloii 
h;\d been tiding side ))V side towmds Dimkeld, nnd when 
" ll\e liuie Dundee ^iii " hnd given John Ihiniiinglon the 
ent divorl. She lituulud to hiMSiMl, bill she set her teeth aw 
th«>ngh son\elhin^ hnrl her even while she laUKlied, at the 
tho\ig]\( ol );uk ilanninglon's laeo. 



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118 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



mill ' 
I'll li 

lili!!' 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

LADY VAL'S news. 

Winter came dow?i upon the land and laid its iron grip 
upon the bounding streams, upon the trees and flowers and 
mossy ground ; it enveloped the hills in a winding-sheet of 
snow, and hung a veil of hoar-frost over the casements of 
every house. In weather of this kind, the old and sickly 
were sure to suffer. Miss Jacky was neither very weak nor 
very aged, and yet she succumbed to the severity of the 
cold. A bad attack of bronchitis reduced her strength very 
seriously, and a heart affection, ot which she had been 
silently conscious for many years, put an end to her life 
just when she seemed to be recovering. In January she 
was carried to her last long rest, and then Stella felt hen 
self more than ever lonely and alone. 

She had failed, apparently, to win Molly's trust and affec- 
tion. The girl had been cold and unresponsive ever since 
Stella became her father's wife. It seemed as if she owed 
her stepmother a grudge which she could not forget or 
forgive, and although she was not outwardly rebellious — 
for she had lost some of her childish waywardness — she 
was neither companionable nor agreeable. Bertie was far 
more affectionate to his stepmother than was Molly ; but 
Stella saw little of him, for Ralph Kingscott kept such 
watch and ward over the lad, that he was not often to be 
found, save " under survei/ia?ice.'' The scheme for sending 
him to England at the New Year had to be deferred, for he 
caught so severe a cold during the Christmas week that it 
was impossible for him to leave home, and Mr. Moncrieff 
decided that he must wait for warmer weather before any 
change in his manner of life was made. This fact, and Miss 
Raeburn's death, caused him also not to press Stella go 
with him to London, as he had at first intended to do ; he 
hardly liked to take her away from home, and thought t hat 
it might be as well to defer her visit to the metropolis 
imtil Molly was old enough to go and be presented at the 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



119 



same time. He himself spent a few days in town, but soon 
returned to Torresmuir, where there was a magnet, the 
influence of which was stronger than he knew. 

It seemed to Stella that she saw very little of her husband. 
She had dreams of companionship and ^ruidance which had 
come to naught. She could not blame Alan, or think that 
he actually neglected her ; he was always ready to do what 
she required of him, to pay calls, to drive or ride with her, 
to escort her with scrupulous care to balls and dinner- 
parties ; but he did not seem to seek her society, or, if he 
sought it, Ralph Kingscott was always by to offer his com- 
panionship, and thrust himself into their company. It 
seemed to Stella that Ralph hinted continually that Alan 
would be dull with her alone ; that he needed a man's com- 
panionship, and that a woman could not interest him. Time 
after time he diverted Alan's attention from her, or — as she 
occasionally found out — misrepresented her wishes, and 
prevented her husband from accompanying her when she 
went out. Yet it was impossible for Stella to protest, to 
explain ; if ever she tried to do so, Alan immediately sus- 
pected some attack upon Ralph Kingscott, proceeding 
from feminine spite and jealousy, and silenced her at once. 
She could only feel a vague consciousness of disappoint- 
ment in her married life ; she knew not why.' She said to 
herself that as long as Ralph Kingscott remained in the 
house she could never be happy ; but there seemed no 
prospect of Ralph's removal. Even when Bertie went away 
it was arranged that he should remain — to act as Mr. 
Moncrieff's secretary and look after the estate. His look of 
satisfaction whenever he had managed to allure Alan from 
her side used to make Stella sick at heart. 

The spring came on apace, and with one of the earliest 
fine days Lady Valencia Gilderoy made her appearance ai 
Torresmuir. She had not visited it of late, and, in spite of 
Stella's want of friendly feeling for her at first sight, Lady 
Val's calls had been very much missed by Mrs. Moncrieff. 
Lady Val was so bright, so full of energy, so amusing, that 
Stella had been attracted half against her will. And she 
was unfeignedly glad, therefore, to see her visitor. 

" Why, how white you look ! " cried Lady Val, as she 
came in, rosy with exercise, her dark eyes sparkling, her 
riding-habit neatly tucked up in one hand. ** You've been 
sitting indoors too much, Mrs. Moncrieff. I wouldn't allow 
that if I were your husband." ^ 



? 



Pii 



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11 



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I20 



THE LUCK a • THE HOUSE, 



" Alan is away," said Stella, with a faint smile. " And 
Molly and Bertie are out together somewhere. I had a 
headache, I believe, and wanted to be lazy." 

Lady Val nodded significantly. 

" A headache ! I've no doubt of it. I should think 
Molly keeps your hands full. She's a troublesome monkey. 
I know her of old." 

The color came at once to Stella's cheek. " She is a very 
dear girl," the stepmother responded, warmly. 

" She is a very pretty one, Mrs. Moncrieff. And she 
looks as old as you do yourself — especially since she has 
taken to long dresses and elaborate coils of hair. A girl of 
that sort attracts admirers very soon." 

Again there was that significance in Lady Valencia's 
voice. Mrs. Moncrieff drew herself up with a slight, un- 
conscious air of dignity. 

" I dare say," she answered, with some stiffness of 
manner. And then, with a relaxing smile, '* Poor Molly is 
hardly to blame for that, Lady Valencia." 

" My dear creature, did I say that she was to blame? " 
cried Lady Val. " Do excuse me, Mrs. Moncrieff. 1 don't 
wish to be rude, or to take liberties ; but you see I have 
known Molly all her life, and I can't help feeling interested 
in her. I know you will hate me if I say what I came 
intending to say ; and yet I don't know what else to do. 
You wouldn't rather that I went straight to Mr. Moncrieff, 
would you? " 

Stella looked at her in dismay. " Do you mean that 
there is anything to be told — anything wrong? " she asked. 

" It may not be wrong; it may be all light," said Lady 
Val, brusquely. " All I can tell is, that people will soon 
begin to gossip, if they have not begun already. To ask 
a plain question — is Molly engaged to be marned? " 

" Molly ! she is only a child. Certainly not," 

" A child ! Well, she's a very big child, Mrs. Moncrieff 
She is seventeen, isn't she ? Not much younger than your- 
self, you know, after all. And if she isn't engaged, it is 
time that somebody looked after her, for I don't think she's 
able to look after herself." 

" You mean," said Stella, changing color sensitively, 
that I am not looking after her? " 

" I don't mean anything of the kind. Everybody knows 
that you are a model stepmother. But — do you know Tom- 
garrow?" 



THE LUCK OF Tf/E HOUSE. 



lat 



n 



The little half-deserted village up the hill ? Yes, I go 
there sometimes to see old Mrs. Cameron. What about 
it?" 

" And you send Molly up sometimes to see Mrs. Came- 
ron, don't you?" said Lady Val, with a shrewd look. 
*' Well, I wouldn't send her there again — alone — if I were 
you. That's all. I felt it my duty to give you that hint, 
although, as I said, I know you'll hate me for doing so." 

" You must tell me more than this ? I must know what 
you mean," cried Stella, suddenly turning very white. " It 
is not fair to give me a mere hint of this sort and say no 
more ." 

" Yes, it is," Lady Val answered, not unkindly. " There 
is, perhaps, no reason why I should say anything at all. 
I am sorry to make you uncomfortable, Mrs. MoncriefT, 
hut I only want to put you on your guard with Miss Molly. 
Both these children want well looking after, I assure you 
as, no doubt, you have found. I would not have com \i 
I had not felt sure that the truth would be reaching your 
ears before long in some more disagreeable form. It is 
better that it should come from me." 

" The truth ! What truth ? Oh, Lady Valencia, do 
speak plainly." 

" I don't want to say too much," said Lady Val, rismg 
and gathering up her skirts again, as if she wanted to get 
away as quickly as possible, " but I did want to say some- 
thing. If pretty Molly has got a lover, there is no reason 
why it should be anything for you to alarm yourself about. 
Only, in my opinion, it would be better that he should 
meet her at proper times and in proper places, instead of 
waiting behind broken walls or in plantations, and wander- 
ing about with her over the moor. Tomgarrow — that's 
the meeting-place, Mrs. MoncriefT; and in telling you that, 
I am almost inclined to believe that I am doing a mean 
action." 

" Do you know who — who — it is ?" said Stella, in dis- 
may. Lady Val looked at her very kindly. 

" It's an old acquaintance of mine, Mrs. Moncrieff ; I 
might say an old friend, only I don't think that his actions 
have been particularly friendly. That's why I don't like 
to go much further in my revelations. No, I won't tell 
you his name. I shall lea\ e you to make your own inqui- 
ries. You will easily learn the truth now that you have a 



' I 



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' 1 



; 1 . 
. f I 



l'. 1 



122 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



iii:i ^' 



I! ' 



suspicion of it. Good-bye, and believe me, I'm very sorry 
to be the l)earcr of such disagreeable news." 

" I ought to be very much obliged to you. " 

" But you're not ; and I don't expect you to be obliged 
to me just yet. You will be, by and by, and I can wait. 
Why, you're all in a tremble, poor little woman. Don't be 
afraid ; Molly's skittish, but she's got no vice in her, as we 
say of horses. Good-bye, and don't forget Tomgarrow." 

She hurried away, divining that Stella would like to be 
alone ; but she did not guess the action upon which Mrs. 
Moncrieff instantly resolved as soon as her visitor was 
gone. Indeed, Lady Val had not yet formed a just esti- 
mate of Stella's character. She thought her amiable, engag- 
ing, kind ; but she did not give her credit for much energy 
of will or keen perception of mind. She would have 
been amazed, indeed, if she had seen the rapidity with 
which Stella arrived that afternoon at a conclusion, and 
the decisiveness with which she acted upon it. 

In five minutes after Lady Val's departure, Stella was 
walking quickly up the road which led to the tiny and 
half-deserted hamlet of which her visitor had spoken. It 
did not lie close to the road, but was reached either by a 
steep and narrow lane running at right angles to the high- 
way, or by the fields which surrounded it. The inhabi- 
tants had for the most part deserted it ; many of them had 
emigrated and left their houses empty ; some of the build- 
ings had been devastated by fire, and the broken walls 
only remained to show where once had been a home. A 
few of the older folks still clung to their dwelhngs ; these 
were mostly aged Gaelic-speaking men or women, who had 
not had the heart to leave the place whence their younger 
relatives had departed. They maintained themselves by 
working in the fields from time to time, and by cultivating 
their little patches of garden ; but their number was gra- 
dually dwindling, and the peat smoke rose from very few 
of the gaunt stone cottages, and the weeds grew rank and 
wild in the deserted squares of garden, and over the mould- 
ering walls. The site of the place was very beautiful, and 
the women who lived there were distinguished by the 
Highland softness of speech and courtliness of manner 
which are eminently characteristic of their race. Hitherto 
it had been always a pleasure to Stella to visit them, and 
to convey little gifts to them cither by her own hands or 



very sorry 



THE LUCK OF THE HOlSE. 



laS 



bv those of her stepdaughter. She remembered with dis- 
may that she had that very afternoon asked Molly to take 
some tea to the old women, and Molly had replied very 
readily that she winted a walk and would be glad to go. 
Stella remembered too that a quick glance of mutual un- 
derstanding had then passed between the eyes of Molly 
and of her uncle Ralph-r-and that Bertie also had given 
his sister a quick, significant look. She had scarcely noticed 
this at the moment, but seen by the light of Lady Val's 
subsequent warning it assumed large proportions in her 
eyes. Were Mr. Kingscott and Bertie in the secret — if 
secret there were — of Molly's clandestine meetings with 
her lover ? And who could this lover be ? Surely, she was 
inclined to say to herself, surely Lady Val rhust have been 
mistaken ! She must have mistaken some casual meeting 
with a friend for an itssignation — of which Molly was as 
innocent as a baby. Molly — so young, so pretty, appa- 
rently so frank ? It could not be. 

As Stella toiled up the lane that led her to Tomgarrow, 
she could not but remember, however, the warning that her 
husband had given her respecting Molly's tendencies. She 
had not believed that he was right ; she had almost for- 
gotten what he said. She had trusted Molly entirely — 
foolish, weak, careless guardian of Molly's youth, she 
called herself as she thought of it. Oh, why had she not 
done her duty better ? 

Thus reproaching herself she reached Tomgarrow, and 
there a full sense of the difficulty of her errand rushed 
upon her. After all, why had she come ? It was not likely 
that Molly would be in the village now. But she might 
as well ask at one of the cottages if Miss MoncriefT had 
been there that afternoon. And even as she thought of 
this, and hesitated for a moment as to the course that she 

had better take, the sound of voices — of a laugh fell 

odaly upon her ear. She turned instinctively in the 
direction of the sound. 

A high wall that had once belonged to a house stood 
before her, blocking up the view. She skirted it slowly, 
still listening for the voices which now were still. Coming 
out on the other side, she saw two figures leaning against 
the wall as if sheltering from the cold East wind. A wide 
sunshiny tract of country lay before them; their backs 
were to the other habitations, and not another living crea- 



i: 



% 












y ri: 



,!i 



it 



124 



THE LUCK OF THE HQUSE, 



ture was in sight. Molly MrncriefT was smiling up into 
the face of a tall, dark man, who had put his arm round 
her, and was holding her to his breast. It seemed as if he 
had been going to kiss her; but when Stella appeared at 
the extremity of the sheltering wall, he quitted his hold of 
the girl somewhat abruptly. 

No wonder that he was startled. No wonder, perhaps, 
that she was even more startled than himself, for in the 
person of Molly's lover she saw the man whom she her- 
self had once dreamed of marrying, the man who had cast 
her off because she was not rich enough for him to choose, 
the unscrupulous fortune-hunter — John Hannington. 



CHAPTER XIX. 



MOLLY S WOOER. 



Molly, who did not see Stella at once — not, indeed until 
Hannington's sudden change of expression showed her 
that there was something wrong — turned sharply round 
and uttered a cry of positive rage. 

" There ! I told you so ! " she exclaimed. " She is 
always spying after me — watching me — prying into all my 
affairs ! And now she has followed me here. Oh, what 
shall I do ? Jack, dear Jack, save me from her ! I know 
that she'll betray us ! " And the girl hid her fare on Mr. 
Hannington's shoulder, and clung to him, as if she feared 
that Stella would drag her awa^' by force. 

" Don't be afraid, my darling ! " said Hannington. Was 
it Stella's fancy, or did his eyes light up with a gleam of 
positive triumph, his lips curl with a vindictive smile? 
Mrs. Moncrieff is the last person to do us an injury ; you 
may depend upon that." And he calmly raised his hat from 
his head with an assumption of elaborate courtesy which 
could scarcely, under the circumstances, have been 
genuine. 

Stella came forward, her face pale, but resolute. 

" Molly," she said, quietly ; " you know very well that 
I wish only for your good. Come away with me, and you 
can explain to me afterwards what all this means. Mr. 
Hannington will also, no doubt, explain to Mr. Mon- 
crieff — if he can." 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



"5 



She looked at Hannington with defiance and mistrust in 
her eyes, which he could not fail to understand. 

" I shall explain it when necessary," said he, coolly ; 
" but I shall probably take my own time for doing so, Mrs. 
Moncrieff." 

" My husband will be home to-night. I shall of course 
tell him what I have seen and heard." 

John Hannington smiled a little, but did not s|)cak. 
Molly tore herself away from his encircling arm, and faced 
her stepmother valiantly. 

" You won't really do that, will you ! " she said. *' It 
isn't fair — indeed is isn't fair of you ! There's no harm in 
my meeting John — Mr. Hannington — and I don't see why 
anybody need — need — make a fuss about it." 

" If there is no harm in it, Molly, then there is no reason 
why your father should not hear." 

Molly suddenly burst into tears. Mr. Hannington 
caught her hand and drew her towards him. " Don't cry, 
little one," he said, " there's nothing to be afraid about. 
I don't think you need fear Mrs. Moncrieff, even. When 
she recollects some little episodes in her own life she may 
not feel inclined to be so hard upon you." 

" I have nothing to be ashamed of, Mr. Hannington," 
said Stella, flushing to the very roots of her golden hair ! 
But her old lover only laughed slightly and turned aside. 

" Run away home, Molly," he said, kissing the girl's 
forehead lightly, and giving her hand a squeeze. " I 
want to have a little chat with Mrs. Moncrieff, and I think 
we shall manage to arrange the matter." 

" Yes, Molly, go home," said Stella, quietly. " I want 
a little conversation with Mr. Hannington, too." 

" Why should I go ? " Molly murmured, rebelliously ; 
but a look and a word from John Hannington sent her off 
without delay. He had evidently, found a way of ruling 
her mutinous spirit. She turned and took the path across 
the fields — it was the nearest way home, but also the least 
frequented. Stella looked after her with doubtful eyes; 
the afternoon was tolerably far advanced, and she scarce- 
ly knew whether to let the girl go home alone. Mr. 
Hannington interpreted, and replied to her glance. 

" You need not be afraid for her. She has an escort at 
hand. Some one is waiting for her at the stile." 

" Some one ? Bertie ? " 
I believe so." 



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136 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



Then he is implicated too. He has been deceiving us, 
and Molly too ! Oh ! what will their father say ? " and a 
look of such real distress came into Stella's eyes that Han- 
nington exerted himself not to let her think matters worse 
than they really were. 

** No," he said, " I don't think you need disturb your- 
self about Bertie. I don't think he knew I was here. He 
let Molly come up to the cottages alone, because he said 
that he was not fond of old women. No, it is on Molly 
alone,. Mrs. Moncrieff, and my unworthy self, that your 
auger must fall." 

Stella gave him a reproachful look. " I have good 
reason not to trust you nuich," she said, slowly ; " but 1 
did not think that you would seek out Molly, of all people 
in the world, to turn her head by your attentions, and 
then — perhaps — to break her heart " 

" As I did yours ? " said Hannington, coolly. " Is that 
what you mean to i'^iply, Mrs. Moncrieff? I must say that 
I nev?r saw any signs of a broken heart about you ; you 
consoled yourself very speedily, I remember. And. 
besides, you talk as if I acted without motives. I have 
no particular wish to turn heads and break hearts, I assure 
you. But for unfortunate circumstances — upon which wc 
need not enter at present — I should have been only too 
happy to make you my wife. As it is, I have every inten- 
tion of asking Miss Moncrieff to take the vacant place as 
speedily as possible." 

"That child?" 

" Not so much younger ,han you were when you plight- 
ed your troth to me at Balmerino. Have you forgotten 
that ? It is not two years ago." 

" I wonder that you dare to recall it," said Stella, her 
wrath suddenly flashing out against him. " A gentleman 
would be ashamed to do so." 

Hannington shrugged his shoulders. " It is easy to call 
names," he said. *' I should never have recalled it to your 
mind if you had not thrust your presence upon me unin- 
vited — you will excuse the freedom with vfhich I speak, 
I hope ? There is really nothing for you to excite your- 
self about, Mrs. Moncrieff". Your stepdaughter is very 
pretty ; I admire her exceedingly, and we are very good 
friends. A little harmless flirtation wtll not do her any 
harm." 



THE LUCK OF T//E HOUSE, 



197 



" It must cease at once. I do not wish to consider 
whether it will do her harm or not." 

" Well, it shall cease. In fact, it has ceased — as flirta- 
tion. Molly has consented to be my wife." 

" And you dared to win her affection without consulting 
her father first ? " 

" You were not quite so anxious that your father should 
be consulted before I won yours, Stella." 

" Mr. Hannington, I am Ah. ^. MoncricflTs wife, and I 
am surprised that you should forget it so far as to insult 
me." 

Mr. Hannington laughed again. "Come, he said, 
don't be so hot, Stella. I didn't mean to insult you in 
the least. I am very glad indeed that you are MoncriefTs 
wife, and hope that years of uninterripted prosperity lie 
before you. Moncrieff is rather a stiff old fellow, isn't he ? 
A little apt to be over-punctilious — a trifle jealous and 
suspicious ? That used to be his character, I know, when 
his first wife was alive." 

" I wished to speak to you about Miss Moncrieff, not 
about my husband, Mr. Hannington." 

" Very well. Then we will speak about Miss Mon- 
crieff," said the man beside her, his voice assuming the 
hard tone which always characterised it when he was 
annoyed. " I will tell you my intentions respecting Miss 
Moncrieff, and I will leave it to yourself to decide on your 
own future course. Molly is very fond of me, as no 
doubt you have seen, and any opposition will only make 
her more determined to follow her own will. As I said 
before I have asked her to marry me. She is young ; I 
have no especial wish to marry her at once ; therefore I 
should prefer to have no formal engagement for the present. 
All I want now is admittance to your house, permission 
to see her now and then, and your assistance in gradually 
inducing Mr. Moncrieff to consent to the marriage. That 
is all." 

" And do you think that Mr. Moncrieff will ever consent 
to it when he knows that you have persuaded his daughter 
to meet you here in a clandestine way, and have made 
love to her already without his permission ? " 

" No, I don't," was the frank reply. " But then, I don't 
want him to know anything about it, don't you see? 
Nobody will tell him, if you don't." 

''Butlmust! I shall!" 



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THE LUCK Of THE IfOLSE. 



"Just so. And if you do, arc you under tlie impression 
that I shall not tit-fend myself?" 

lie fated her as he spoke. The lif^ht of day was ^row- 
in^ dim, and made his t t)nntenan(e look pallid, but it tlid 
nt)t ct)nceal the tlark and almost malevolent expression 
that crossed his fentiires, nor the sartlonie. glitter of his 
dark eyes. As Stella stood and lt)t>ked at him, she 
\vt)ndcretl what glamour there hatl ever been thrown over 
this man to make him rank high in her esteem. 

•' I dt) not know how you ran defend yourself," she saiti, 
after a little ipause. 

'* It would be easy, Mrs. Monerieff, to defend myself by 
playing t)n some very well-known t:haraeteristics cf your 
hushantl. It woultl be easy to say that you — like many 
another stepnu>lher — were anxious to put the worst inter 
i)retatit)n on anything that Molly said or did. It would 
l)e easy tt) say that I hatl met Miss MoneriefT seltlom, and 
only by accident, and that I had not said anything which 
need cause him anxiety." 

*' Not easy for a man of honor — not easy if you spoke 
the truth ! " 

Hannington boweti with sarcastic composure. ** It 
would be a case of hartl swearing, perhai)s, but a man's 
honor allows him to tell lies, in order to i)rotect the 
woman that he loves, Mrs. Moncrieff. As for me, I love 
Molly, and I shall do my best to win her. There would 
be nothing at all remarkal)le in Moncrieff's eyes in your 
opposition to the marriage if I hintetl to him that you had 
had a previous att '^hment, and that no woman likes to 
see herself suppl.inled — and so on — he would be ready 
enough to believe that you found it impossible to be 
magnanimous — no tioubt — and it would be a j)leasant little 
piece of news to hear, i)erhaps, that his wife had once 
written very pretty and affectionate loveletters before her 
marriage to another man ! " 

To do Hannington justice, he did not intend to carry 
his threat into execution, but the look of white terror that 
came into Stella's face showed him that he had hit upon a 
very effectual method of managing her. At least, so it 
appeared to him just then. He hati half expected to hear 
that Mr. Moncrieff had already been told of Stella's former 
attachment, and that it was for this reason that Mr. 
Moncrieff had of late shown himself so little friendly with 



THE I.UCK OF THE ITOVr.E, 



129 



n.innington. IJut a look at Stella's fare made him sec his 
mistake. Kor a moment she was mute, hut he read in her 
eyes that surh a revelation of her past would be disastrous 
indeed for her. 

" You would not tell him that ? " she murmured, almost 
below her breath. Slie was too much startled to be pru- 
dent. 

** But indeed I would. So you have not told him yoiir- 
scid, I see? Well, you were wise. He is a man >vho 
never forgives — never trusts again where he has been once 
deceived." 

•' But I never deceived him ! " 

" Oh, no ; I did not say that you ever did. The story 
is of very little importance after all. Only if you interfere 
with my plan, Mrs. Moncricff, I shall take care to let him 
know the reason ; that is all. I^et me have my own way 
about Molly, or I will send him your letters. You can 
choose." 

'* He would not read them ! " 

"Oh, yes, he would." 

" You do not know him as I do." 

Hannington only smiled. •' Suppose he did not read 
them then. Suppose he burned them unread 1 Would he 
not always remember that there was something which he 
might hnve read? Would he be very likely to trust you 
again ? Perhaps you don't care for his trust ; if so, that 
is all right, and I stand aside al)ashed ; but if you do — as 
a friend I would recommend that you kept those letters 
out of his hands ; that is all." 

Again there was a silence. He watched her white, 
quivering face with a faint, furtive smile ; he felt very 
certain that he would ultimately gain his point. 

" It is growing late," he said at last, " and this is a 
matter which possibly requires a little consideration. 
Perhaps you would rather give me your answer to-morrow, 
Mrs. Moncrieff? I take it for granted that you won't spring 
the matter on your husl);ind the moment he comes home 
to-night ? That would be rather too unkind. To-morrow 
afternoon, shall we say ? " 



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T//E LUC A' OF THE HOUSE. 



CHAPTER XX. 

- % 

5 * > • l"!. 

" ONLY ONE WEEK !" . ' 

Stella consented to th » delay. It seemed to her that 
it would be better to talk to Molly before doing anything 
else, and that perhaps Molly's own anxiety to clear herself 
from double dealing might simplify the matter. So she 
said very gravely that she would postpone further conver- 
sation till the morrow " And then," queried Hannington, 
" will you meet me here ? " 

She hesitated, and her lip quivered. It seemed to her 
almost as if she partook of Molly's blameworthiness, as if 
she would be deceiving Alan Moncrieflf by consenting to 
meet John Hannington in private. But there was no other 
way out of the difficulty. She felt that she must speak 
to Molly before deciding whether to tell her father or 
ignore the whole affair, and in that case she must see Mr. 
Hannington again. And so, very reluctantly, she con- 
sented to meet him next day at five o'clock in the after- 
noon. 

Then she turned her face sadly homewards, and arrived 
at Torresmuir only just in time to dross for dinner and to 
meet her husband, who was inclined to express surprise at 
her being out so late — even for the sake of the people 
who lived at Tomgarrow. The dinner was a tolerably 
cheerful one, in spite of the weight that lay so heavily 
upon the nearts of certain persons present. Alan was in 
an unusually lively mood, and entertained the party with 
some racy stories which he had learned during his recent 
visit to Edinburgh. Ralph Kingscott was always ready to 
attune himself to his brother-in-law's mood, though on this 
occasion he looked a trifle uneasy now and then, and cast 
some furtive, anxious glances at Mrs. Moncrieff and his 
niece. Stella, eager to ^^ide her own discomfort, laughed 
and talked with the others, and Molly, with eyes and cheeks 
aflame, was full of almost hysterical mirth. It was only 
Bertie who seemed to suffer, and what he had to do with the 



THE LUCK O/' THE IIOI'SE. 



«3« 



\-\ 



an was in 



matter Stella could not divine. He sat almost silent, white 
and downcast, scarcely touching food, and so depressed in 
manner that even his father, not usually observant, turned 
and asked him whether anything was wrong, whether he 
did not feel well, or iiad been annoyed in any way. There 
was nothing the matter with him, Jiertie rej)lied, with an 
involuntary twitching of the lij) and a crimson blush which 
made his father look at him anxiously for a moment or 
two. And then Alan Moncrieff sighed, knitted his brow, 
and went on with his stories as cheerily as ever. They 
had seldom seen him so jubilant. 

Of course Stella did not get a chance of speaking to 
Molly all the evening. lUit at night, when Alan and 
Ralph had gone to the smoking-room, she made her way 
to Molly's pretty bedroom — a place which Mrs. Moncrieff 
had never penetrated since her marriage — and would not 
be sent away. Molly, with her ruddy gold hair all down 
her back in a magnificent mane, was writing a letter at her 
writing-table. She covered it up with a sheet of blotting- 
paper, and pushed it away when Stella entered the room. 

♦* Won't you let me speak to you, Molly ? " said Stella, 
rather sadly. 

'• I don't see what you can nave to say," was Molly's 
hot response. " I am not a baby — not a child that you 
can coerce, Mrs. Moncrieff. 1 am a woman, and I will 
not be interfered with." 

The petulance of her tone was rather childish than 
womanly. " My dear," said Stella, " I do not want to 
interfere. But your father has surely a right to know that 
his daughter's heart has been won — or rather that some- 
body has tried to win it. I am quite sure that the most 
honorable way would have been to go to your father 
first." A 

' " Have you told him ? " ,. ,, -. 

; <♦ No— not yet." 

" Then you mean to betray me ? I never thought that 
you were so false." 

" False, Molly ? What falsity is there in telling your 
father that Mr. Hannington wishes to make you his wife ? 
That is tVe truth, is it not ? " 

"Yeb," said Molly, hanging her head and blushing 
hotly. 

" Then why should he or you be ashamed to say so ? '* 



h ' 



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til 



THE IMCK OF THE iroVSE, 



'• Wo arc i\()l ashnnunl," siiiil Mdly, lifting licr hciul. 
*' \\\\\ wo wo woro — ;\ruii(l.*' 

" What woro von nfrnid of?" 

" PaiKV is suro lo say ll\nt I am so young I " 

" Von aio not vory oUI, aio yiui, Molly ? '' 

" v\nil Jaok is poor." 

A soil of slab nassod lhn>ugh Slolla's hoarl. ft was not 
thai she rogrottou tho lo'^s of John llannington, hut the 
k<{k\ pain hogan to thiol) whon sho hoaiil him spoken of 
familiarly. 

"If ho is poor, dear, how does ho moan to maintain 
you?" 

" I shall have money ; t am rioh enough foi' us both," 
said Mi>lly. proudly. 

"And if ho woro marrying you only beoauso you were 
rich, what then. Molly ? ' 

The girl llamotl oul at onoo in indignant rage. 

*' Vou have no right to say so. Jaok is n»>t a fortune- 
hunter I '' she oriod. "Ho is noble, gt>od, and gonerou.s 
in every way, and I will not hoar a wonl against him." 

" If he is so noble and good, why did ho not oome to 
your father boforo trying lo win your heart, Molly?" said 
Stella, rather mournfully. " Was it right, do you think, 
that ho should gain your oontidenoe, your afleolion, in this 
unauthv>risod way ? And how long were you to go on 
deceiving us ? " 

" There was no doooption about it. I love him and he 
loves mo ; there was no i\eoessity for us lo lake all the 
world into our oonlidonoo. ' 

" Not all tho world, but your father, MH)lly. It was not 
right, and you know it. What are we lo do now? " 

" How — what do you mean?" 

*' Am I to toll yt>ur father what I have heard and seen? 
or will you toll him all about it? or will Mr. Hannington 
come to see liim? " 

" Neither." was Molly's petulant answ^er, as she turned 
her shoulder sulkily to tho questioner. 

" Then will you give him up ? " 

** I don't know how you can ask me such a question, 
Mrs. MonoriotV! " 

** (.>no of those throe wmvs must be chosen, Molly," said 
Stella, rather wearily. " Indeed I do not want to have to 
tell your lather the story : you had bettor tell him yourself, 



rnr. i vck of the house. 



133 



or induce Mr. llannington to do so; or — ])cUcr still, 
perhaps — give him ii}) altogether — at any rate, until yuu 
arc older." 

J{ut at these words Molly burst into passionate tears. 
It was i?upossi])le to get her to listen any longer, and 
Stella at last quitted the room, telling her very gravely that 
a decision must be reached before twenty-four hours had 
passed, and that she had belter resolve at once to inform 
her father of John Hannington's desire to marry her, and 
risk his anger rather than deceive him any longer. 

She sought another interview with Molly next morning, 
but the girl would not listen to reason, and shut herself up 
in her own room, refusing even to see her stepmother. 
Stella received a little note from her in the midclle of the 
day, containing these words only — " 1 can never, never 
give him up ; it is too much to ask of me. If he likes to 
s[)eak to ])ai)a, he (an ; an<l if not you may do your worst." 
Do her worst I 'i'he expression wounded Stella sorely. 
Was she not trying hard to do what was best for Molly — 
and even for John llannington ? 

She had some dilliculty in making her way to Tomgarrow 
at the appointed time ; but, fortunately, the visitors who 
arrived inopportunely at four o'clock did not stay very 
long. And she reached her rendezvous at a quarter-past 
five. She found Mr. llannington looking remarkably 
patient and at ease ; he was leaning against the wall smok- 
ing a cigar, and greeted her with an affable remark about 
the weather. 

" Ik^autiful day, is it not, Mrs. Moncrieff? I began to 
bo afraid that you were not coming." 

Stella took no ap])arent notice of this rcinark. But her 
eye glowed as she said, quietly : 

" I hope you have made up your mind to go to Mr. 
Moncrieff yourself, Mr. Hannington." 

" No, indeed, I have not. It is the last thing I intend 
to do at i)resent," said Hannington. He did not look at 
her as he spoke; it was the only sign of grace lie showed 
— he was a little ashamed to look into her face. 

"Your watchword seems to be 'Secresy,'" said Stella, 
bitterly. *• I remember that once before you asked a girl 
not to tell her friends of your j)rofcssions of attachment. 
Are you anxious to ascertain the amount of Miss Mon- 
crieff's fortune before you declare yourself? " 



! J 



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M4 



77/A /^r'A or 7 //A mn/sf?. 



" 1 kiu>\v all i\l)om Miss Ntv>nv lioH's forlviut', ll\ank you. 
1 h.wo my own uMsons for kroping silciirc.'* 

" \ kt\o\v you too Will lo suppose that they arc good 
ones/' 

'* Vo»« »1o uu' too UUH h honor,'* saitl Uannit^gton. 
Rrtn\\sti« ally. ' \'o»i seiMn to Ikwo given a good deal of 
attention to n\y ehaiat ter." 

•• UoNV rat\ yo\> speak in th>t way that heartless way ? " 
eried Stella, the tears rising to her eyes ii\ spito of her 
ertorts io eheek thtMU. " Surely yon have a hetter self— 
the self that I th\n«ght I knew in ilays gone In ? Was 1 
altogether n\istaken ? Is it really true that ytni rare otiiy 
U> atnnse yonrselt, »m to gain • oniethitig fv>r yourself? At 
{\ny rate, if yv>M di\! not eare to spare tue, yon nnght spai-^ 
l>oor Mi^Uy- her father's only da\»ghter, a tniitherless girl. 
\nu\>eent and hnii\g and inexperienved ' Have a little pity 
\ipv>n her ; y\oW{ win her heatt and thn w it away ! If you 
\\o \\\>\ » are iv>rher, it ean he wo real tro\>Me to yo\i to give 
her \M>. She will sv>v^n t\>rget you ("or she is \)nly a ehild 
-^■xuvl you will u\ake her life utterly miserable if you 
persist 1 '' 

" Vou Atti delightfully flattering. Mrs. Monerieft. Vo\! 
don't know how nuu }\ you tell \ne ahout your own feelings 
while vv^u plea*l tor Molly. And you an tpiite wrong 
alH>nt Nfollv. tv>o. She is nv>t sueh a ehild as yon faney ; 
and \ \lo eare \\n her. I assure you that 1 do love her, 
at\d I mean to u\ake hor mv wife." 

" C'oriainlv ; n^ako her your wite if vou « an win her. 
l^ut dy'^ it openly ; go to Mr. Mot^erieflV' 

" In mv \>wn tin\e atul my own way." 

'* Vnloss vou s)>eak to him at ouve. yon »\u>st nv>t meet 
Molly again." saivl Stella, bravely, although she felt as if 
she were s\vndn\^ her strei\gth in vain. *' Tt v\\niu>t l>e 
alUnvotb She s^^t// \\o{ carry on at\y seeivt inteu ourse or 
correspondenee with you ; I shall i>revent it." 

"Vou wdl have a haid task; Nlolly is a elev».. Hltlc 
soul." 

" I shall tell Mr. MvMurietV. then.'' 

"<L>li. no, you won't do that." said Hanningtot\, with a 
smile, "Invauso — you know the ]vr.alty." 

" I CAnnol help it," said Stella, turning pale, Inil stand 
ing her gro\ind eourageously. " T.us thing n\ust not go 
on," . 



fttn r.vck oji' 77//? //ot/s/i. 



Hi 



" You monn that yon do ikjI (jIijitI," said licr roni|mnioii 
slowly, •' to my sending ropii'H of llu* K'tlcrs winrli y«ni 
onro wroto niv to yonr hnsicmd ? " 

•'Ohjorll I do ol»jtM (, of (ontsc," Stella niiswetrd, 
iihispinj^ het hands tightly together in \\r\ agony of pain 
and fear. "I dare not think of it; hut it cannot he 
helped. I nnist do right." 

Hannington langhed. lie was really a little tonehed, 
hul he did not wish U) hettay the fa< t. " My dear Mrs. 
MoticrielT y«)U are making nmeh ado about tiothing," IiC 
saitl, almost kindly. " I have not the least desire to 
destri y your domestic happiness, and you know it would 
he destroyed oi\re and Un all if I showed your husband 
those little docuuients, unless yo*. had previously confessed 
their existence, whi< h it seems you have not done I Hut if 
you cross my path I must take measures to ))rotect myself, 
l.el us compri)nnse the matter a little. If, at the end of a 
week I have no{ spoken to Mv. MoncricfT and formally 
proposed for Molly's hand, f/trn tell him what you choose, 
(iranl me a week's respite, and I'll reserve the letters— 
perhaps 1 will even burn them ; but give me a week." 

•• A week — why a week ? " said Stella, hesitatingly. 

" For deliberation — consideration of my affairs ; all that 
sort of thing. Just one week — and then the whole thing 
shall be cleared up." 

" Will you promise not to see MoHy during that time?" 

Hannington rellected. "Well," he said, with some 
reluctance, " I will promise if you desire it. Yes, Mrs. 
MoncrielT, I promise." 

Stella sighed. '• I don't know," she said, " whether I 
ought to yield this point ; but if you will promise not to 
see her again, nor write, and at the end of the week to 
speak to Mr. Moncrieff, I will keep silence — until then— 
but only until then 1 " 

•' I will not see her again, t will not write, unless my 
letters go through the authoriti«?s' hands. I will let Mr. 
MoncrielT know everything by the end of the week. Isn't 
that enough ? " said Hannington, laughing rather oddly. 
*• What a diplomatist you would make, Stella ! Come, 
you need not be olTended," he continued, as he saw her 
color and frown. '* You gave nic permission to call you 
Stella once, you know." 

Was it by design that he said those words so clearly ? 






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yj^^Vh\ V^v**^ Ky^vv^yy s^yyy^ ^sAyyyyyyy^y^vyy V:yvy' yyv ^y^v 
^w*^^^"*- s^ ^^y^^>^N ¥M^ vv>^y^y <(V N^v^yyvyAvH=< yyv^v y^yy^ 
v4; v^H, Ky¥4^v>M<( Hyi-^ yvyvvs <vy>y^\vv^ tvyy»^^y<iv^\ y»^yH- 
^^^^j>^^v**, vK^v^ v^y^y^ Vs^w^ '^yyivKvx i.^^ yV ^v^ yUy\ yyy^^ 
>sV\\^^>^. '*^v ¥W ^¥jy;^ H^y s^y^^^t yyy^v^ y\^liy>y|t- 

Vv\i> v^ss vi^it.v^ >\ vKv>k,^ ^_^^^ ^^^^ ^^^ vyyy^v^lcV y- " 



iiiP ^^H-H/t- i'H^ thi^'Mki 



hi 



\\\a[\\S\\\\ rU»lllltl»'r U lull jIh iHII tillltltH'M' !(♦• u ill f|)Ull^ r" 

"I tJl'mim-ih »)llh will ^'<((«lf^lH hvf'»Hlilti)^,"' '-'dlli jfHk, 

\^\k\\\^. Mill IUk f)»l|^ ln«<t Mlltl H|>l«IIHft M » |^{U llH (l*<lHl 

»J»^ihMMtttli'««»t» MhhlMHl h« lui\»> «I^MfMl»:»l iil«H j ih<tf1|l'M) 

rtMll |HM|*Ii>hIIv Whih l<Hih ^lillt-H MjMMI lll'< I'Hin' "tll'J 

•' \\^\\ \\\U\\> y\\\b'\\\\Mf' HtilfMl |<ll1^i»;H||. nl^llllWMHilt'. 

ll:\HmHf>lt'H hh'iilrlhM.I, »ill»i IhmH H wjllft dj Irt'M fil llH 

>I|H\^ iiuM» ii^' VH**t'»^'li I'l*^ fl"!!*** IhfUU'll lifU k »1/ifll«lfit llih 



\\!ill. y\Hil ^<ilm\>'»l w ImIhI ^iMlllh Ih I'fj^hp ImIh hh nfin«liH»<(h 



iImK tH^^H 



M|\H jMH)Hl*tH»| Im «Mv «U*ll(ltUt |J«« H l^hhlt/* lih h 



>\Ui. 



'' I IJH UHl huMu ulu'llthl iMit- nuiv mill \wi IM k^J^i* hf'f- 

\\m\ " 
'* i MiIhH umi mmv '' »<Ml»l klimni Mil 

**VlMI \\\\\\^ illh'li Mh ^IIH Mllrtltl l<| IllM llllilt'liul IH i|Uv'«lt 
IMil IhH limit! IH htlMllj'MU^ lUM'^hll? " 

"Ns*. uni ihrti Mlih limU Hinjil ;iii<l uhHlO' t'liMfigh } 
Im\| llu>h- i'i j'ljMih hi ilitilrtl'lt'l lu'hilul lliMl <fili liHl'- M( p 
^U\tl llu' jMt'lU MiU'i'\i-k< Mhh li i|lllU' rMptililfMif riiMim 

HU^y|>' ^^ M\i«thO<t' iM lillHnfi II li«l fjltillltMl IIkiI -ilih WhulH 
In^ V^i\n|U hl^hlhllhll Wlull I Ihlv CM flll'l I li.'lVh 
M^^IiIum! \\V\ |Mtlh trIH'hillv (lining lllh Ifl'jl It^W Mtuftlll'J 

i»! hf-^ nv'iw^^ i«l lu«Mi'l tiiui luM «llMli|t will f^ «?hn Ichl 
\\^\\ \\\^\ 'jIu' ^\tMil(l lu*hl lu'i liMipjih liii ti w^'hl^ Vhii himv 
lAH\iUl»'i^lU kh'inMul i|jM«M 11 lli;il 'jIu- it ill Ithhj* Iuh wntd, 
"J^I^V'H^rttl^ rt I'MiullHcH." »«rii»l llMMnin^ioH. tliJly, 
*4M tMMiV*«^, Wmmu'Ii ulnfivt iIh. Wlinl wri'i li ? " 

** Tl^rt^ I nluMllll \M^\ *HH' Mullv »lutlHfJ lllhWht'lt, Hf Hifti' 
iH\',uU-Mk- mIiK lui, 4;IU' llui'tiuli Ihh hU'lihl |i<MVhf«» f 
UtU V\;»H{ M|« »*» rMlh"<nU(ll ;lMtl (•Hl-I lnV't»'lf !\'i ;i '^ifiili^ 
\.S\\ U* MiMHiik'il Ol ItHIHI'. if I iht'C-Jt' Im «!(• mo!" 

*M «»W. \ut! vini HU'iMi Im «IIi k Im IIviI ? " 

j«UK MrMM\(M^lMH »jlMIIU||t>lt ll|« HltMlll»h»t-«, ♦' Air«4 ftUt 
iiy Unr Ml wrM." Ill' 'uilil, ilviMllhjyi \\h PVf'H ^imim K\t\^ 



<y'\''{W {'-MV 



\\\\\ il 



w;i>^ |i|tiiit Mini lu^ luut 'iMMH' Nltfinkjn^ 



♦>\M\\ UU' lMHilU''<>< lit lllinil ; *JMntt' liHlt' fMnin mI « (i||H( ifflM* 

in>uU> hull »tMiii \h»1 kiHii'UMll. will) Imn iiminl shr(\v(l 

l\C?»**» llhilH^l [Uv ll^l'lilllj ;IUt1 M''i|«MUtl«Ml lt» il. 

** Kvvi' vuui «mh1 ii VMii likt\" In sMJil. " Ymh iwvd 

1 )• V 



:(l 



\m 



«38 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



not see Molly for the next few days. You can send letters 
to her, you say, if you send them through the higher 
authorities — of whom I am surely one ! I'll take your 
letters. Jack. Trust them to me.'* 

''You!" 

'' Yes ; by virtue of my relationship. * Save through 
the higher powers,' you said. Well, am I not one of them ? 
Have 1 no claim to be considered? I am Molly's uncle, 
and — 'gad ! I mean to have a hand in her fate." 

Hannington uttered a short, reluctant laugh. " So you 
will take charge of our letters ? You approve of my suit ? 
Come, Kingscott, tell the truth ; why do you take this 
kindly interest in two romantic lovers ? What do you 
hope to get out of us ? " 

" Well," said Kingscott, modestly, " I think I may hope 
for a fair share of gratitude. " 

*' Translated, I suppose, into 1. s. d. ? " 

" You put it rather coarsely, Jack. I should certainly 
like to see Molly married to a friend of my own." 

" I may put it coarsely, but it is just as well to be frank," 
said Mr. Hannington. " You will not have free quarters 
in my house, if I marry Molly, as you have had at Torres- 



» 



muir 
"It 



is kind of you to forewarn me," said Kingscott, 
with equal coolness, " but unnecessary ; because I mean 
to go in for a little independence before long. I am tired 
of humoring Moncrieff and bowing down before Madam 
Stella ; I am tired of bear-leading and keeping guard. I 
am going to London before long— but I want an income 
— small it may be, but secure." 

He kept his eye watchfully on Hannington as he spoke. 

" Do you think that you will get one from me ? " said 
Hannington, sneering. 

" Oh, no. I don't count on such generosity from you, 
Jack. Still, it occurred to me that if I could assist you 
now, and if my assistance were worth anything, you might 
fin'^ it pay you to promise me a little regular help in the 
future. Fifty pounds a year or so would not hurt you — 
when you have the handling of Molly's fortune, you know." 

" You are sure about that fortune ? " said his friend, a 
little uneasily. " She gets it at her marriage ? " 

" Of course," Kingscott smiled in a rather unpleasant 
manner. " No doubt of that, my dear fellow ; no doubt 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



»39 



at all. I thought you had examined the will for yoi!rs«;lf 
under which she inherits ? " 

" No, I hadn't time. I aia taking it on trust. If you 
deceive me " 

" Now, really, Jack, is it to my interest to deceive you? " 
What should I gain by it? I want to further your happi- 
ness in every possible way. It is folly of you \o harbor 
these suspicions of my good faith." 

Hanning'ton threw back his head scornfully. "Your 
good faith is so very much to be relied on ! Don't you 
suppose I have heard the stories current at Homburg 
and Monte Carlo ? Don't I know that there are places in 
London where you daren't show the tip of your nose ? 
What reason have I to pin my trust on you, I should like 
to know ? Why, it is one of the greatest drawbacks Molly 
will have to contend with when she goes into the world 
— if it is ever known that she is Ralph Kingscott's niece." 

"Don't try me too far, Hannington." Even in the dim 
light it could be seen that Kingscott's lips were white, 
and that his pale cheek was twitching with anger or agita- 
tion. " No need to rake up old stories. They v^ere mostly 
lies — and they have been forgotten long ago. Besides 
— you are not blameless yourself." 

" I may have played high, and lost a good bit on the turf 
at one time or another," said Hannington, sharply, " but 
upon my soul, I swear I never cheated at cards." 

Kingscott made a passionate gesture, as if he would 
have struck the man that taunted him ; then he drew back 
his hand, with a look of almost inconceivable malignity. 
" No," he muttered, more to himself than to his compa- 
nion ; " no — not yet. Some other way." Then, aloud, 
and with recovered dignity, he said, calmly — 

" Your insulting language ib only pardonable when I 
consider that you are in a difficulty, and in trouble of 
mind, Hannington. On that ground I am ready to over- 
look it, and to continue the offer of my services in )our 
little love affair. Remember that without me you are 
helpless." 

" Bertie is on my side, I believe. He has brought his sis- 
ter here several times. Bertie is on the side that I tell him 
to take. Bertie is under my thumb. He is too much 
afraid of some of his little money transactions coming to 
his father's ears to disobey me. He will ask my permis- 
sion for anything he does." 



w 



■\\ 



lii 



iir, 

% 



I40 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



I 



"And is Molly obcdicMit?" 

" Molly is not obedient at all. You will find that out if 
you marry her. Do you want me to do anything for you, 
or do you not? " 

Hannington smoked steadily for some moments without 
answering. But when he spoke it was with unusual 
decision. 

"Yes," he said, *' I do." 

"Letters,! sui)pose?" ' 

" Letters of course." 

" And — any other arrangement ? " 

Again Hannington was silent. There was evidently 
some doubt, some sort of struggle going on in his mind. 

"Look here, Kingscott," he said at length. "You 
must excuse me if I spoke hastily just now. I am — as 
you guessed — in some trouble — some perplexity ; the fact 
is, I hardly know what to say or do next. I'm regularly 
done for — up a tree — this time ; and one is naturally a 
bit short-tempered at such a conjuncture." 

" Oh, of course. Don't think of it, old fellow. What's 
wrong?" 

" You don't suppose," said Hannington, who seemed 
incapable that evening of pursuing a conversation in any 
connected manner, " that Moncrieff would give his consent 
to his daughter's early marriage ? " 

"No, I do not." 

" I cannot afford to wait," said the young man, almost 
as if he were ashamed of the confession. 

"Then don't wait," returned Kingscott, smiling. 

" What— make a* bolt of it ? " 

"Why not?" 

" Molly would never consent." 
• "You don't know much of girls if you really think so. 
The romance of the thing would delight her." 

"And what would Moncrieff" say ? " 

" He would storm and rave, no doubt. But he would 
give in." 

"And even if he did not give in, there is no mistake about 
Molly's money, I suppose ? I could touch it at once ? I 
don't want to make ducks and drakes of it ; but it would be 
a convenience to get a few hundreds into one's own hands 
just now." 

" I have no doubt it would," said Kingscott to himself. 



THE l.UCk OF THE HOUSE, 



141 



and his mouth expanded in such a malicious grin that if 
Hannington could have seen it in the darkness it might have 
startled him. But he could not see his companion's face 
for the shadows that had fallen fast about them. And 
after a pause, Ralph answered in a tone of suave convic- 
tion: "There is no mistake that I am aware of. Molly's 
fortune will come into her hands and her husband's hands 
on her marriage, if that takes place before she is twenty-one. 
So long as she is in a good temper and a generous mood, 
you never need fear poverty. The world will have its say 
in the matter ; it will call you a fortune-hunter ; but I sup- 
pose you don't mind that ? " 

" Not a whit," said Hannington, with a laugh. "Nothing 
succeeds like success." 

"If }ou have a clear conscience," continued Ralph, in a 
tone of affected simplicity, " you can afford to defy the 
sneers of worldlings base. Of course I trust in your love 
for my dear little niece, and do not wish her to be sacrificed 
to your pecuniary necessities " 

" Come, KingSQOtt, that will do," said John Kannington, 
decidedly. " I don't like that sort of thing. You know 
you don't care a rap what becomes of your niece, and you 
need not set up to be virtuous and affectionate all of a 
sudden 1 " 

" Exactly," said Kingscott, changing his tone; "but at 
the same time I should like to know, as a matter of curiosity, 
whether you are fond of Molly or not ? " 

" Molly's a nice little girl and uncommonly fond of me. 
A man must marry some time." 

"That's all, is it?" — in an undertone. 

"Isn't it enoi'^h?" exclaimed Hannington, almost sav- 
agely. "I like her — she likes me — what more can you 
want? A man never marries his first love — seldom his 
second or his tl ird. There is nothing uncommon in my 
mode of proceeding, is there ? " 

" Nothing at all. I am only surprised to hear that you 
ever had a first love, Jack. Where is she, then ? Was 
she rich, too ? " 

" No, worse luck," said Jack, so sullenly that Kingscott 
felt surprised, for he had not imagined that there was any 
seriousness in his companion's remark. " Poor as a church 
mouse, confound it ! Else I wouldn't have played the fool 
with Stella Raeburn and Molly Moncrieff— yOv\ may take 



I, 



i ! 







t42 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



your oath of that. She was worth the whole of them put 
together ; but we couldn't afford to marry each other, and 
so we agreed to part." 

" Is she married ? " 

" No. You needn't think you're going to worm her name 
out of me. Let the subject drop, if you please," said 
Hannington, flinging away the end of his cigar, and turn- 
ing as if to go. " I don't care to talk of it — or to think of 
it for that matter. Are you ready? It is abominably 
cold here." 

" You have no message for Molly ? " 

" I will Write, if you will take the letter to her. I'll see 
you in Dunkeld to-morrow at noon." 

*' You will have to be quick with your arrangements," 
said Kingscott, slowly. " You have silenced the fair Stella 
for a week, remember ; only for a week. You have a week's 
chance — that is all." 

"It will be enough," said Hannington, striding away. 
His voice was rough and hoarse ; there was no inducement 
in his manner for Ralph to follow him, and accordingly 
that gentleman looked after him with a smile, and did not 
attempt to track his footsteps. Jack went blundering along 
the rough road, stumbling now and then over stones half 
buried m the rank grass, growling to himself at the dark-> 
ness of the night. Kingscott listened intently until the 
noise died away. Then he smiled, and ensconced himself 
snugly in an angle of the wall, where he v as protected from 
the wind. Presently he took out a cigar and began to 
smoke. He was not cold — he liked the feeling of the fresh 
air upon his face, and he wanted a little quiet time in which 
to review the situation, which was by no means so clear to 
him as he would have liked it to be. If his thoughts had 
been translated into words, they would have run some- 
thing after this fashion : — /«>. 

"It seems to me that I have a chance at last of doing 
what I have tried to do all these years. Success is near 
me now, I fancy ; fresh complications crowd on me on all 
sides. I can hardly miss my aim. 

" What is it that I have been trying to get ever since 
Marie died? A hold on that fool Moncrieff, with his 
antiquated notions of truth and honor and honesty ; a hold 
on him, a place in his household — why ? Not for his bene- 
fit, of course. For mine. Because I want a competency* 



'.'« '■ 



fUE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



Uj 



1 look forward to a time when I shall call myself master of 
a good round sum, and spend my days as I choose. For 
this I have wasted years of my life in courting Alan, and 
frightening his wretched son — alienating the man's heart 
from his children, and steadily laying up a hoard for my- 
self. But the gains have been few ; it is a slow process. 
I have not made nearly enough for myself as yet, and I 
was just devising ways and means of increasing the spoil, 
when he must needs go and marry this wretched slip of a 
girl — ay, and if I am not mistaken fall in love with her too. 
I never was more astonished in my life. 

** He trusts his accounts into my hands. He writes 
cheques without inquiring why they are wanted. He 
accepts my stories of what is needed on the estate without 
a murmur. In short, he acts like a fool. And yet — it is 
an odd thing — I never feel safe with him : I never feel sure 
that he will not wake up some day and ask awkward ques- 
tions — and where should I be then ? It is just that dread 
which has made me so moderate ; which has kept me from 
plundering *vholesale (as people would call it) — that is, 
which iias made me content with so small a percentage on 
my transactions with him. Why, confound the man ! does 
he think that I shall do his work for nothing ? or for the 
beggarly pittance that he pays me for drilling Bertie in his 
Latin grammar ? I'm not such a fool. 
J " When he married, it certainly did seem to me as if my 
game were very nearly played out. His wife softened him 
to the children, and was instilling her own suspicions of 
me into his mind. I thought that my time at Torresmuir 
was likely to be short, and that I had better make hay 
while the sun shone. I think I was a little imprudent once 
or twice. I see now that I had no need to distrust myself. 
Things are working round just as I would have them : they 
could not have been better if poor Marie had been alive to 
put money into my pocket as she used to do. In a short 
time I shall have matters entirely my own way. I don't 
despair of seeing Alan separated from his wife and parted 
from his children, dependent for sympathy and compan- 
ionship on his faithful friend and brother-in-law, Ralph 
Kingscott, for whom he has made a large provision in his 
will, and in whose hands are the reins of government With 
respect to his estates in Scotland and Engla nd. That would 
be a fine position for me. And it is far from improbable 
-*now. 



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t44 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



" For now MoncricfT is fool enough to suspect his wife 
of deceit, and if he l^elieves that she can deceive him he 
will never care for her again. Molly is on the brink of 
elopement, which he will never forgive. And if he thinks 
that Bertie has had a hand in it, he will never forgive him 
either. Is there any way of deepening his displeasure ? any 
way of affixing a stain to his name that he will think can 
never be wiped out ? I must consider." 

He considered very seriously, with his eyes fixed on the 
forms of the hills before him, now vague and shadowy in 
the faint starlight. He considered, evidently, to some 
purpose, for presently he said to himself, " I have it,"* and 
laughed aloud. There was something weird and uncanny 
in the sound cf that low laugh in the midst of the silence 
that reigned around. Even he felt the influence of the 
hour and of the scene ; for no sooner had he uttered that 
strange laugh than he started and looked "ound, as if afraid 
lest any one should have heard. But nobody was near. 

" It is growing chilly, and I have had enough of it," he 
said at last, as he came to the end of his cigpr. '* I have 
got an idea, and I think that I shall be able to work it out. 
It is odd to know that the happiness of that whole family 
depends upon me. I hold the luck of the house in my own 
hands — in more senses ihan one. Ay, Alan Moncrieff, 
little as you may think it, your future is a matter for me to 
decide, because you are too blind, too stupid, too proud, 
too honorable, as the world would say, to decide it for 
yourself. If you cast away your own good fortune, then 
it is for the first comer to pick it up." 

And having uttered these enigmatic and ominous words, 
he turned away from the half-ruined clachan, and bent his 
steps once more to Torresmuir. 



CHAPTER XXII. 



IN THE SNARE. 



Stella's walk homeward with her husband was an ex- 
ceedingly unpleasant one to her, and probably it was not 
any more agreeable to Mr. Moncrieff. As Hannington had 
noticed, Alan gave his wife his arm in turning away ; and 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



'45 



he was right in supposing that this actic i proceeded less 
from a wish to support his wife's steps than to show that she 
belonged to him, and to him only. There was an impulse 
of protection in it, certainly, but also an expression of 
wounded pride. And Stella was less conscious of his right- 
eous indignation at Hannington's familiar tone and his sud- 
den fury of desire to defend her from all harm, than of the 
anger which she thought she discerned in every line of his 
rigidly set features and in the coldness of his averted eyes. 
She did not venture to speak for some time ; he walked fast 
and did not seem to notice that she could hardly keep up 
with him. It was only when they had left the rough ground 
about the village and in the lane, and were out upon the 
smooth high-road, that Mr. Moncrieff paused for a moment 
and glanced at her with some compunction. 

"I have walked too fast, I fear," he said, politely. 

" A little — I shall be all right directly. We are on a 
level road now," said Stella. She worli not for worlds 
have told him that her loss of breath ' mie from fright as 
much as from undue haste, and that her heart was beating 
so violently that she wondered whether he could not hear 
its throb. She withdrcv her haiid gently from his arm. 
and stood in the road without speaking. 

" Are you better now ? Shall we go on ? " he asked after 
a moment's silence, in a grave but much gentler tone. 

''Thank you. . . Oh, Alan, don't be angry with 

me ! " — The words seemed wrung from her, half against her 
will. 

" I do not know that I have anything to be angry about, 
Stella," said her husband. 

"I don't think you have, Alan." 

"Except," continued Moncrieff, in his most freezing 
tones, ^''except that you appear to have relations with Mr. 
John Hannington — a man whom I particularly dislike — 
concerning which you keep me in entire ignorance." 

"No, indeed, Alan ; at least — oh, it is very difficult to 
answer you when you put it in that way ! " said Stella, the 
hot tears breaking forth. 

" Ido not wish you to answer unless it is quite agreeable 
to yourself," said Alan, in a tone that more than ever 
showed him to be displeased. " I prefer to ask no ques- 
tions." 

" I will tell you everything — some time," said his young 



■ ! 



f ) 



\ \\ 



! !■ 



1 f^i 

! % 



146 



TKE LUCK OF Tlfl TfOUSE. 



wife, tremulously, " but not just now. Alan, please do not 
ask it — some other time " 

She was hardly ])rci)arcd for the exclamation, that 
followed. " There is something to tell then ! Some secret ? 
God help us 1 I thought 1 had done with secrets now, but 
it seems that all women are alike." 

It was on the tip of Stella's tongue to say : " This is 
not my secret" — when she refrained. After all, it was 
partly her secret. Her youthful semi-engagement to John 
Hannington flashed into her mind, and made her hang her 
head. But for that, Hannington would have ?^o hold over 
her, and she could have spoken out and been a help to 
Molly, a comfort to poor Alan. Oh, why had she not told 
him everything on that sunny day at St Andrews, when he 
asked her to be his wife ? She had never thought of it as 
a secret before ; it had scaicely occurred to her that it 
would be wiser and better to tell him everything before her 
marriage ; and now she saw that she had made a great, 
I)erhaps an irreparable, mistake. And just now, at any 
rate, she must hold her peace ; she could neither clear 
herself, nor blame herself openly \ she must be silent for at 
least another week. What a penance that week would be 
to her 1 Seven whole days ! But seven days would end 
at last, and then she would tell her husband all. The 
thought gave her courage and serenity ; she spoke with a 
renewed calmness that took him a little by surprise. 

" Have patience with me, Alan," she said, softly. " I 
think — I hope — I am not concealing anything from you 
for my own good simply. I want to do right, and to tell 
you everything ; but give me a little time — ^I have a reason 
for not telling you to-day " 

*• I believe that you mean well, Stella." The words fell 
coldly upon her ear. " I think that you want, as you say, 
to do right. But it \s possible that your judgment may be 
at fault." There was a touch of irony in his tone. "You 
are young ; you have not seen a great deal of the world ; 
it might perhaps be wiser if you would allow your husband 
to jvidge for you." 

A rush of tears blinded Stella's eyes. The tone more 
than the words hurt and gii( ved her. A hundred pleas, 
excuses, cries for sympatl y -nd trust sprang to her lips ; 
but again she refrained I.e. self. She could not say to her 
husband that she had p; - mi^^d not to tell him what she 



THE LIH'K OF THE IIOUSE, 



»47 



a reason 



knew. She had given the pronnise without thinking of all 
that it would involve ;and she writhed in its bonds like one 
taken by guile in a cruel snare. 

Alan waited for her to si)eak — waited more anxiously 
than she knew ; but when no word issued from her lips, he 
folded himself all the more closely in his cioak of reserve 
and pride. For a few minutes the two walked on in silence 
— broken only by Alan when he swung open for his wife 
tho heavy gate that led into the grounds of Torresmuir. 

" You will follow your own judgment, of coiwse," he said, 
in a tone of great gravity and coldness. ** I do not attempt 
to force your confidence. One thing, however, I ran 
hardly pass by without remark. You may at some past 
time, in an unguarded moment, have given Mr. Hanning- 
ton the right to call you by your first name; but you must 
now make him understand that in future you are ' Mrs. 
Moncrieff/ and not 'Stella,' to any but your friends." 

If he expected any answer to that Fipeech, he was di.sa[)- 
jminted. In the darkness, Stella felt her face tingle with 
the hottest blush of shame that she had ever known. For 
something in his voice had recalled to her that little 
incident on the steamer at the Dundee wharf of which he 
had been a spectator ; and the kiss that John Hannington 
had pressed upon her hand before he said good-bye seemed 
to burn her fingers still as she remembered the steady gaze 
of Alan Moncrieff's cool and critical eyes. It had almost 
slioped from her memory until now. How was it that she 
had forgotten, and that he had never questioned her ? It 
was not his way to question ; Stella knew that too well I 

She stood still for a moment or two, feeling as if she 
were deprived of the power of movement as well as of 
speech. Her husband glanced at her keenly — the light of a 
lamp above the gate had let him into the secret of that burn- 
ing blush — and then turned away, considerately anxious 
to spare her feelings as much as possible. When he was 
a few yards in advance of her, Stella's strength returned. 
She made the best of her way to the front-door, but she 
did not look at or speak to her husband again. She felt 
inexpressibly grieved, hurt, distressed \ but she was inca- 
pable of defending herself in the present situation of 
affairs. / ^ n ^ . - v 

She went up to her own room to rest for a while before 
dinner, and was half inclined to send word that she would 




148 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



not come down again ; but on reflection she felt herself 
scarcely justified in disorganising household arrangements 
simply because she felt troubled and depressed. She had 
great difficulty in suppressing tears even while the maid was 
helping her to dress, and when she came downstairs the 
effort which she had been making caused her to look so 
white and weary that Ralph Kingscott (who had managed to 
arrive home and dress with superhuman celerity) made a 
slightly malicious remark on her appearance. 

" Your walk was too much for you, I fear ? " he said, 
with mock politeness. 

Stella looked at him without answering. For the first 
time it crossed her mind that he was perhaps responsible 
for her husband's inopportune appearance upon the scene 
while she was talking to John Hannington. She did not 
quite know why this thought occurred to her ; it was 
one of those guesses, those flashes of intuition, by which 
women sometimes read the course of events so clearly as 
to surprise slower-witted masculine minds. Ralph saw 
that he was suspected, and said nothing more. 

The evening was dull. Mr. Moncrieff" scarcely spoke, 
and the rest of the family followed his example. Stella at 
last went to the piano and began playing the soft, melan- 
choly airs which she knew that her husband loved, as her 
father had done before. But in the very midst of his 
favorite melody Alan got up and walked out of the room. 
Stella went on playing, but her eyes filled with tears, 
and the heart seemed to have gone out of her music. 

It was well for her peace of mind that she did not hear 
a conversation that passed between Alan and his brother- 
in-law at a later period in the evening. The two men 
went into the smoking-room together. Alan threw himself 
into a low easy chair, crossed his arms and fell at once 
into a deep leverie. Kingscott noticed it as a bad sign 
that he did not begin to smoke. He himself selected a 
fine cigar with great care, and lighted it in a peculiarly 
deliberate manner before speaking. Then he said quietly : 

" Don't you want to hear what Hannington said to 
me?" 

" No," said Moncrieff, with an impatient movement of 
his head. 

Kingscott studied his face attentively in the pause that 
followed. " I am sorry to trouble you," he said at length, 



THE LVCK OF THE HOUSE. 



140 



in his coolest and most caressing accents, " l)ut I tliink 
that it is my duty to speak — and yours to listen.' 

" I am not so sure of that," said Alan, frowning. " How- 
ever," — with a sigh — "wliatmust l)e must; and if 1 am to 
hear, let mci at any rate get it over (piickly. What do you 
^vant to say ?" 

"Your wife " 

" I would rather not hear anything against my wife." 
Kingscott raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoul- 
ders. " My dear Alan, I would not say anything against 
your wife for the world. I have the very greatest admira- 
tion and respect for her. What on earth makes you think 
that I meant to say anything to her discredit ? " 
'* I don't know ; I beg your pardon, Ralph. " 
" Should you not rather beg your wife's ? " said Mr. 
Kingscott, with a decorous air of offended virtue, which 
might have amused an impartial observer if one had been 
by to see. Alan only heaved another great sigh by way 
of answer, and then leaned with his elbows on his knees, 
and his hand in an arch over his eyes — the attitude of a 
man in pain or trouble of some kind. " Go on," he said 
at last when the silence had been protracted for some 
minutes. 

" It seems," said Kingscott carelessly, " that she and 
Hannington were engaged before she left Dundee." 

A sort of start ran through Alan's whole frame, but he 
did not look up. 

" She has that curious sort of shame and dislike to the 
subject which many women show on the subject of their 
first loves," Ralph went on, in the tone of a dispassionate 
judge, "and she seemed to fancy that Jack Hannington 
had kept her letters, and that she might get them back in 
a personal interview." 
" It was a planned thing, then — this meeting ? " 
"Oh, yes." 

" She wrote to him, perhaps, to meet her there ? " 
" I could not say, really. There are always plenty of 
opportunities for a woman, if she wants secret inverviews 
— especially when a woman has as much freedom as you 
accord your wife." 

" Yes," groaned Alan, uncovering his face, which had 
grown white as death. " I have never been hard on her, 
have I, Ralph? You used to think me hard on poor 



I I 



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ftik Luck OF Tiib tioU^L 



i 






Marie ; but Stella — Stella — never. I was never harsh or 
unkind to Stella, I am sure." There was a strange tone of 
repressed anguish in his voice. 

" Unkind ! Certainly not," said Kingscott, as if he did 
not see the point of his brother in-law's remark. " Why 
should you have been unkind ? You are generosity and 
gentleness itself: few women can have so ideally perfect a 
life as Stella, just as few women can be as sweet and lovely 
as she is. No wonder she had admirers before her 
marriage." 

Alan set his teeth. " Did Hannington keep her letters ? " 
he enquired with a low voice. 

" I don't know, I am sure. He did not say, and I did 
not like to ask." (Kingscott had no scruples about telling 
a falsehood, when he thought it would serve his turn.) 
" I suppose the conversation was not finished when we 
came up." 

" What made you take me that way, Ralph ? Had you 

any idea — any suspicion ? " 

" Good heaven, no, Alan ! I went in that direction 
quite casually. It is a short cut, you know. Why, if I 
had thought that a private interview was going on, of 
course I should have avoided the place. Not but what it 
Was a harmless interview enough, no doubt. Women are 
a little nervous and cowardly sometimes, you know ; I 
fancy that your wife imagined that poor Hannington might 
send you the documents to look at." 

" I have no doubt the letters contained only what was 
perfectly justifiable," said Moncrieff, with a somewhat 
distant air. He would not hear Stella slighted, he told 
himself, although his heart was wrung with jealous pain 
and rage. " Of course, if she was engaged to him " 

" We must make allowance for women's whims," said 
Kingscott, laughing. '* The letters are probably rather 
tender effusions, and she is ashamed of them now. Pope 
says that * every woman is at heart a rake.' I am quite 
sure that every woman is at heart a flirt ; so we need not 
be surprised even if Hannington was dismissed rather 
unceremoniously " 

** Good-night, Ralph," said Alan, suddenly rising from 
his chair. " I think I won't hear any more, thanks. 
Ste^a is going to tell me the whole story herself, and I 
would rather hear it from her." 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



«S< 



" I won't anticipate the recital," answered Kingscott, 
with a careless smile. " Are you going ? Good-night." 

Alan left the room, shutting the door behind him. But 
almost immediately Kingscott crept towards it, opened it 
again very oftly, and listened. The sound of Alan's 
footseps told him that he was not yet going upstairs. Mr. 
Moncrieff went to his private study, and locked himself in. 
Kingscott heard the key turn in the lock, and nodded 
with secret satisfaction. Then he closed the door, and 
walked back to the table, where he stood for some minutes 
smiling to himself as he mixed a glass of hot whisky and 
water for his own delectation. " I think the poison 
works," he said to himself, as he slowly stirred the sugar 
into the hot mixture, and held the glass to the light before 
tasting the contents : 

" I think the poison works." 

The poison worked indeed. Alan Moncrieffs mind 
was thrown into a state of indescribable agitation by the 
half-true, half-false report of Stella's doings which Kings- 
cott had brought to him ; and, although he fully believed 
that his wife meant ultimately to tell him the whole truth, 
yet he had a feeling of distaste, of repulsion, almost of 
positive disgust, at the thought of her former attachment 
to Hannington. His faith in her candor and uprightness 
was rudely shaken. If she had been engaged to any man 
before she knew him, if she had written letters — " tender 
effusions," as Ralph called them — to any man, she ought 
to have let him know. She had deceived him, he said to 
himself, bitterly ; and the only redeeming point about the 
whole business was her determination (as he understood 
it) to tell him the story in a few days. For what else 
could she have to tell him ? The notion that her commu- 
nication might refer to Molly and not to herself never 
crossed his mind. She meant to tell him — " some time," 
she had said. Some time ! He would hold her to that ; 
it was better than nothing. He would give her a few 
day s grace, and then he would have the truth from her 
black and bitter as it might be. 

Stella was painfully conscious of the change in his 
manners during the next few days. It was as though he 
were holding himself back, trying to be patient and cour- 
teous while suffering from a constant sense of injury and 
anger. A sort of half-suppressed irritation and resentment 



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»S2 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



showed itself in his manner. She could not understand 
it. She knew that she had vexed him by her refusal to 
divulge the secret of her interview with ^jhn Hannington, 
but she felt that he ought to trust he^* a little — especially 
when she had said that she would ttil him everything by 
and by. 

She spoke gently and sympathetically to Molly, telling 
her that she had promised Mr. Hannington a week's 
grace, and that she hoped he would then speak to Mr. 
Moncrieff. Molly tossed her graceful head, and looked at 
her step-mother with scornful eyes. 

"Of course you will do what you can to separate us," 
she said. 

" What makes you say so, Molly ? If your father ap- 
proves I shall approve too." 

" But you will do your utmost to prejudice my father's 
mind ; I know that ! " cried Molly, flushing to the roots of 
her hair. ** I understand it all ; Jack told me." 

" Told you — what ? " asked Stella, as the girl hesitated. 
But Molly would not speak. She grew redder and redder, 
hung her head like a bashful child, and turned away. 
Stella could only conjecture that some garbled version of 
her acquaintance with John Hannington had been poured 
into her ear. 

An air of gloom and mystery seemed to have settled over 
the household. No two persons were happy in each other's 
company. Misunderstandings abounded on every side. 
The whole family appeared to be at cross-purposes — the 
most disagreeable state in which a family can possibly be. 
Stella and Bertie were more comfortable together than any 
other couple ; and they, by tacit consent, avoided all themes 
which might breed perplexity or discussion. Bertie was 
under the impression that Molly's intercourse with Han- 
nington had been broken off; and although he had not 
known much of it, he had known enough to make him 
vaguely uneasy. He felt genuine relief in the conviction 
that Molly was no longer carrying on clandestine relations 
with a man whom his father so thoroughly disliked. 

At the same time, he was a little puzzled by the new 
friendliness which seemed to obtain between Molly and 
Uncle Ralph. He came upon them once or twice in deep 
converse ; once he was certain that he saw his uncle hand 
her a letter, and he knew that they went for long walks 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



153 



together — but, after all, there was nothing so remarkable 
in these facts as to cause suspicion that anything was 
wrong. It was only that Bertie knew his uncle well enough 
to suspect his motives in every action of life ; a-id that he 
did not trust too much to Molly. He did not like to con- 
fide his suspicions to Stella — who, perhaps, might have 
been jet on her guard if she had but known them in time ; 
he could only resolve to wait and watch for further deve- 
k)pments. 

It struck nim as odd, when he went into the Octagon 
Room one day, that Ralph was standing in the middle of 
the room, with a ring in his hand which he was idly fitting 
on his little finger. As soon as he saw Bertie he thrust 
his hand into his pocket, so as to conceal the ring, and 
asked rather fiercely what he was doing there. 

" It is the room in which I usually sit," said Bertie, with 
a touch of cool dignity which struck Ralph instantly as 
something fresh in his manner, *' and I don't know why I 
should keep out of it. Why have you got Moi^y's ring? " 

" Molly's ring ? I have not got any ring of Molly's ; 
what do you mean, sir ? " 

" I mean the ring that you had on your finger," said 
Bertie, steadily ; " A ring with one red stone set with bril- 
liants. I saw it as I came into the room." 

" You are quite mistaken," said Kingscott, suddenly re- 
covering his coolness. " The ring I am wearing never be- 
longed to Molly at all ; it was an heirloom in our family, 
and I was trying it on in sheer absence of mind. I wish, 
my dear boy, that you would mind your own business." 

And then he left the room, but — as Bertie noticed — 
without offering to convince him of his mistake by showing 
him the ring, which must have hung very loosely on his 
finger, for he drew his hand out of his pocket without it. 

These vague suspicions, these sensations of something 
unexplained, sufficed to make Bertie wakeful for the next 
two nights. As he lay sleepless, he could not rid himself 
of the idea that there were strange sounds in the house, 
stealthy footsteps going to and fro, a light gleaming for a 
moment where no light should be. On the second night 
this impression was so strong that he got up and partly 
dressed himself; then opened his door softly and went out 
into the corridor, where the struggling moonlight lay in fit- 
ful gleams upon the polished floor. He had armed himself 





»S4 



THE LUCK Ot^ THE HOUSE. 



M'ith a revolver — a pretty dangerous toy, which he had 
bought in London, and was boyishly proud of keeping 
loaded beside his bed. 

Bertie went up and down the passage, looked into one 
or two rooms, stood and listened intently, but could hear 
nothing more. He had fancied that burglars might be in 
the house. Wanting as he might be in moral courage, 
Bertie was physically no coward. His blood warmed at 
the thought of a hand to hand encounter with robbers. He 
might, he fancied, win back his father's trust and affection 
if he displayed striking bravery and presence of mind. He 
felt something like a thrill of positive satisfaction when at 
last he was certain that he did hear a footstep, that he did 
see a glimmer of light beneath the door of his father's 
study — where no light was usually to be seen between the 
hours of one and two in the morning. He drew back into 
a dark recess and waited for the footsteps that were draW' 
ing near. 

The study door opened, a flash of light came forth. It 
came from a lantern in a man's hand, and the light gleamed 
upon the man's face as he walked. Bertie started ; his re- 
volver nearly fell from his hand as he looked. This was 
no robber, then ? — merely Ralph Kingscott, who had been 
wandering about the house by night, after his well-known, 
uncanny fashion. He had a roll of papers in his hand, and 
his face was pale ; his eyes gleamed in a restless way as he 
glanced furtively from side to side. 

Bertie drew back as far as possible. At that moment he 
did not want to confront his uncle. Relations between the 
two had been somewhat strained during the last few days. 
He was lucky. Ralph stopped and extinguished his lan- 
tern before he reached the dark recess. If he had kept it 
alight, he would have seen his nephew's shrinking figure 
as he passed down the corridor. He went to the Octagon 
Room ; thence, as Bertie knew, he could pass into his own 
apartments. Some impulse urged him to follow. He 
made his way softly and stealthily to the Octagon Room, 
holding his loaded revolver firmly in one hand. 

The Octagon Room was dark. The door into the 
Tower stood open, and a breath of cold night air blew 
on Bertie's face, as he approached it ! he knew what 
that meant. The door from Ralph's room into the garden 
must be open top. Voices fell suddenly upon his ear. 



THE LVCK OF THE HOUSE, 



«S5 



He stopped to listen, for surely one of them at least was 
well known to him Molly ; what could Molly be doing in 
Uncle Ralph's room ut that hour of the night? And there 
was Kingscott's voice, and another — whose ? not John 
Hannington's ? What did this mean ? 

A burning tide of indignation rushed through Bertie's 
veins. He dashed forward, hardly knowing what he did. 
He had a glimpse of a dimly lighted room ; of Molly in her 
hat and cloak, holding by a man's arm, of Ralph King- 
scott's furious look. The light was r.uddenly blown out : 
there came a cry, a scutfle ; the sound of a loud report as 
the revolver was wrenched out of his hand and fired — by 
whom he could not tell. A heavy blow was planted well 
between his eyes ; there was a moment of bewildering 
pain, of flickering lights, confusing noises, quivering nerves 
and then came the blackness and silence of complete un- 
consciousness. • 



CHAPTER XXni. 

NEMESIS. 



f 
■ it 



Glasgow on a dull, dreary, drizzling day ; Glasgow with 
East wind in full predominence, with pavement deep in 
mud, with lamps lighted in the streets at four o'clock in the 
afternoon, although the month was April, and in the coun- 
try, at least, the daylight hours began to lengthen pleas- 
antly. But the great city was wrapped in gloom, and the 
cheerlessness of the day was reflected in the countenances 
of those unlucky persons whom business ^it could not 
have been pleasure) obliged to be abroad. 

A gentleman passing along Bath Street, however, did not 
seem to share in the prevalent gloom. He was holding 
his handsome dark head high ; there was a glow in his eye 
and in his face which rendered him evidently independent 
of surrounding circumstances ; he looked like a man who 
had just carried out a lucky coup, and had secured for himself 
something that was worth winning. Withal, there was 
defiance in his air ; he was at war with mankind, with him- 
self, with God, perhaps ; he felt himself to be fortunate, 
and he was yet not entirely happy. He was certainly little 
in the mood to notice the people whom he passed in the 



!• . 






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r?^ 



IS« 



THE LUCK OF THE I/O USE, 



street; hence it was, doubtless, that he did not catch sight 
of a lady who was standing with her maid on the steps of 
a highly respectable family hotel, jjatiently waiting until 
the ddor should be opened to her knock. With that look 
of high excitement on his face it was not likely that he 
would see even an old acquaintance like Lady Valencia 
Gilderoy. 

But Lady Val was not to be discouraged. She uttered 
an exclamation, then ran lightly down the steps, pursued 
the unobservant gentleman, and touched him on the arm. 
* "What have 1 done that you should cut me, Jack?" 
she said. 

John Hannington stopped and stared violently. All 
the glow went suddenly out of his face. He did not speak. 

"You look as if you had seen a ghost," said Lady 
Valencia. 

" I have, ' he answered, rather hoarsely. " The ghost 
of — of other days." Then he laughed, offered her his hand, 
and went on as if to efface the memory of his words. 
" Where are you staying. Lady Val ? Or, surely, you 
are not staying anywhere ? You are the last person that 
I should expect to see in a Glasgow street." 

" Am I not? " said Lady Val, laughing in her turn, but 
in a gayer fashion than he had laughed. " I have had 
business in Glasgow. Perhaps that is also the last thing 
that you expected to hear ? Such business, Jack I It is 
settled now, thank goodness ; and if you can give me a 
few minutes I'll tell you all about it ; you will be as glad 
as I am, I fancy, when you know ! " — and she looked up 
at him with shining eyes, and .wondered vaguely why he 
turned away and said nothing. 

" Cati you spare me ten minutes ? " she continued. " It 
is the greatest piece of luck I ever experienced — save one 
— meeting you here in the street, as if you had fallen 
from the skies 1 I was just wishing to see you ; I really 
have some news to impart, and you are going to listen to 
me, are you not ? " 

" I have not very much time to spare, I am sorry to 
say, Lady Val." Hannington was visibly embarrassed. 

She stared at him and then laughed again — she would 
not be repelled. " It's the first time you were ever rude 
to me. Jack ; it is going to be the last, I hope. Come, 
you can't be so very busy as not to be able to give me ten 
minutes or so." 



THE I.VCK OF THE IIOVSE, 



»57 



" Oh, no : I can even give you half an lioiir," said Han- 
nington, recovering himself, and smiling back into her 
face almost frankly. " I have some news for you too ; 
but mine will keei)." 

" And mine won't : that is all the difference. Now turn 
back with me. That is my maid on the steps : old 
Grimsby — isn't it an appropriate name ? See how grim 
she looks. She does not ajjprove of my running after you 
in the street. We are to stay until seven o'clock at thi.i 
hotel, and at seven my sister will call for me and fetch 
me away from this Bal)el of a city. We have been here 
for three days transacting business, and now the business 
is done." 

" Is Mrs. Lennox then with you ^ " said Jack, only 
half comprehending the purport of her words, as she 
ascended the steps before him. 

" No, she is having afternoon tea with some people 
that I hate, in George S(juare, and I declared absolutely 
and once for all that I would not go with her. Come this 
way." And Lady Valencia inducted her guest into a i)ri- 
vate sitting-room, away from the street and the occasional 
spurts of bustle in the entrance hall ; and in this room 
they found a bright fire, some cosy-looking chairs and a 
sofa, and tea laid for two on a small table drawn close up 
to the hearth. 

" Ah, that looks comfortable," said her ladyship, 
briskly, " and new, Grimsby, you can take my hat, and 
bring in the teapot and the scones. Jack, you and I will 
have a delightful little tea all to ourselves, aud if Grimsby 
doesn't think it strictly proper, why, she won't tell, and 
neither must you." 

The grim maid's lips relaxed into rather a sour smile as 
she took her mistress's wrappings, and Lady Val glanced 
at Jack, expecting to find a laughing answer ready. But, 
to her surprise, Hannington's face had grown gloomy : V\i 
imj)cnelrable dark eyes were Hghted by neither mirth nor 
jileasure, and he was pulHng at his long black moustache 
with what she perceived to be a rather nervous hand. 
Moreover, he stood up on the hearthrug in a constrained 
and formal attitude which astonished her — well as she 
knew John Hannington, there was something in his 
demeanor which pcr]>lexed her now. 

But she was a clever woman in her way, and she 






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158 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



thought it wisest to see nothing, so for the next few mo- 
ments she busied herself at the tea table, scolded Grimsby 
in a light, bright, cheerful style, scoffed at the weather, the 
streets, the hotel, and allowed her guest to recover his 
self-possession and his gaiety as best he might. Her treat- 
ment was perfectly successful. When Grimsby had 
retired, and Lady Val had given him a cup of tea — made 
exactly as he liked it, by the by, for she had long ago 
leL nt his tastes by heart — and when she had established 
herself in a low chair by the fire, and he stood looking 
down upon her from his position on the rug, with his arm 
on the mantelpiece — then the clouds began to clear away 
fiom his brow, and he smiled a Httle at her lively sallies 
and regarded her with the old admiration in his eyes. 

Was it his fancy, or was she really handsomer than 
ever? The glancing firelight was favorable to her ap- 
pearance, because the mingling shadow and shine con- 
cealed the slight lines that care had begun to trace upon 
her brow and emphasised the color in her cheek, the 
splendor of her eyes, the massive coils of her raven hair. 
Then her dress was exceedingly becoming to her figure 
and complexion : it was of a deep Indian red, trimmed 
with a good deal of dull gold Eastern embroidery about 
the body and close-fitting sleeve. Hannington vaguely 
noticed that she had been careful that every adjunct of her 
attire should be in keeping : that even the stones in her 
brooch and her rings were red, and that the one gold 
bracelet which she wore was a serpent with ruby eyes, 
that the dainty slippers which she had retired for a moment 
to don were embroidered very finely with small ruby- 
colored beads. He was a man on whom such small details 
were not lost, and he liked them to be complete. Lady 
Val had alwa) s satisfied his taste better than any woman 
he knew. 

He was thinking this, as he stood and looked at her in 
the firelight, when suddenly she lifted her dark eyes and 
met his gaze. Involuntarily he drew back into the 
shadow. But she did not draw back ; she only laughed 
in her iVank, gay, yet enigmatic fashion. * cf . 

'* Well, Jack, are you better ; ready to hear my news 
now ? " 

" Yes, I am better. A cup of your tea and the sight of 
your face have refreshed me wonderfully." 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



>S9 



She held up a warning finger. " No compliments, sir ! 
I have a weighty communication to make to you. Will 
you listen ? " 

" For ever ! " 

He intended it only as idle compliment, and as such 
Lady Val had always accepted the half-jesting devotion 
that he had offered her for so many years ; but on this 
occasion her eyes fell, and her face flushed as if she had 
taken it more seriously than usual. 

"Only for five minutes, at present !" she said, with the 
whimsicality of tone which he was accustomed to associ- 
ate with her utterances. " Then, my dear Jack, you can 
judge as to whether you would like to hear more. It is a 
matter of law and business, and I shall want to have your 
advice. Do you know much about stocks and investments 
in general?" 

" Not so much as I should know if I had anything of 
my own to invest," said Hannington, laughing. " Is your 
ladyship about to speculate ? " 

" Yes, indeed ; and in a very hazardous way." 

" Let me advise you not to do that. Consult your 
lawyer first." 

" Suppose I prefer to consult you. Would you help 
me?" 

" I ! Certainly, if it were in my power." 

** I thought that you would. You were always a friend 
of mine, weren't you. Jack ? Friends through thick and 
thin we have been, after all, have we not ? " 

"I hope so," said Hannington, uneasily. "What do 
you mean. Lady Val ? There is nothing — I hope — likely 
to sever our friendship just now, is there? " In his heart 
he thought there was, and he dreaded to hear it from her 
lips. 

"Oh, no, I don't think so," Lady Val responded, 
briskly. She touched her eyelids with the cobweb hand- 
kerchief which had been resting in her lap — was it pos- 
sible that they had been moist with unshed trears ? — and 
went on in her usual rapid manner. " I was only afraid 
that you might resent something that I had done ; and I 
thought that I would make open confession to you when 
I had the opportunity. Look here. Jack ; you have been 
making love to Alan Moncrieff's pretty daughter, have 
you not ? And Mrs. Moncrieff has been putting a spoke 
in the wheel — eh ? " 



m 




i6o 



THE LVCK OF THE HOUSE, 



"She tried to do SO." 

" I expect that she will be successful," said Lady Val, 
with a laugh which showed some nervousness ; " and if 
she is, I shan't be sorry." 

The words which Hannington had been about to utter 
suddenly died upon his lips. 

"Did you never wonder who told her? It was I. 
People had begun to talk aboLt poor Molly's meetings 
with you, Jack, so I went to Mrs. Moncrieff and put her 
on her guard. I did not mention you by name ; but I 
suppose she found you out ? " ^ 

" Yes, she did. May I ask whether you call that a 
friendly act — to try to defeat my schemes in that way ? " 

" Yes, I do. And when you know all the circumstances, 
I think that you will own that it was. I would have 
spoken to you if I could have got hold of you, but you 
carefully absented yourself from me all the time." ^ 

" You know why," said Hannington, sullenly. 

Lady Val's eye glittered. " Do I know why ? " she 
asked. 

" Of course you do. You are the only woman in the 
world that I ever cared for — I have told you that twenty 
times, and I tell it you once again. If I had seen much 
of you then, do you think that Molly would have held me 
for a moment ? You had only to hold up your little 
finger, and say ' Come ! ' " 

" Oh, no, I hadn't, Jack," she said, softly. " There was 
a very good reason for our holding apart, you know. We 
agreed that neither of us could afford to marry a poor per- 
son. Was not that the case ? " ^ 

" I suppose so," he said, sighing very genuinely. " It 
would have suited neither of us — you less even than 
myself." 

"I don't know that. I should have made a capital 
poor man's wife, I believe. I should have liked very well 
to scrub the floors, and make the puddings, and dam the 
stockings : I have no dislike to poverty at all." 
" You are never likely to be tried." 
" No," Lady Val answered, still softly, but with an odd 
little smile. " I am never likely to be tried." 

" I know what it is," said Hannington, taking a step 
towards her, and contracting his dark brows as he spoke. 
" You want to tell me that you are going to be married—- 



The luck of the house. 



i6i 



iy Val, 
and if 

utter 

was I. 
leetings 
put her 
3 but I 

that a 

way?" 

istances, 

Id have 

but you 

I a J. 

y ? " she 

,n in the 

,t twenty 

en much 

held me 

ur little 

'here was 
iow. We 
)Oor per- 

;ly. "It 
ren than 

capital 
i^ery well 
Idam the 



th an odd 

a step 
le spoke, 
larried— 



some millionaire has asked you to be his wife, and this is 
the fashion in which you announce your marriage ! " I 
wish you joy, Lady Valencia : and I congratulate you on 
your success. We have both been fortunate." 

" Don't be cross, Jack " — very gently — " no millionaire 
has asked me to marry him yet." 
" But you are going to be married ? " 
" Perhaps." 

** Then my congratulations " 

" Oh, how stupid you are ! " she said, getting up from 
her low chair and standing before him — so close that she 
touched him with her dress, with her arm, with her filmy 
little handkerchief, as she spoke. " Do listen to the news 
that I have to tell you, and don't make all these silly 
guesses beforehand. First and foremost, will you forgive 
me for what I did about Molly, if I can prove to you that 
I was acting in your interest all along, and have been jus- 
tified by the event. 

" Certainly," he said, and, yielding to temptation, he 
took the white hand which grasped the handkerchief into 
his own. " I'll forgive you, too, without hearing your 
excuses.** 

" No, I don't want you to do that." She let her hand 
stay in his ; her breath came and went a little more quickly 
than usual. ** You may have heard an old story about an 
uncle of mine who made an enormous fortune in America 
many years ago. There was a lawsuit about his money : 
it has been going on for some time, and none of us 
thought that we should ever benefit by what he left. We 
have gained the case." 

"I saw that in the papers. Also, that the costs of the 
proceedings had swallowed up nearly all the fortune." 

Lady Val laughed. " Nearly — not quite. Some land 
was left. Well, on this very piece of land our agents have 
' struck ile,' as they call it : there's petroleum flowing 
night and day, I believe, and producmg piles of money, 
all for my brother, my sister, and me. The old man's will 
provided tiiat we should share and share alike, you know. 
I suppose that I myself shall soon be a millionairess, if 
there is such a word. What do you think of that, Master 
Jack ? Oh, Jack, I'm so glad ! " 

She stretched out both her hands to him. There was 
th loveliest look of joy and tenderness in her eyes. 

11 



It i' 



1 I 



* ': 



\^1t 



.f#A Iti'k' rlF TtrF. fmfK'^K 






t\:\>\\\\\\^\m lirM hv\ limotf, hut tiindf tiootliet sigti. tU 
WAscvouing wliitr jtlvuH llir li|'s. 

'■ Un y»nt srr, Jnck ? " sjir \\v\\\ oti. " I tvfts liopitig 
tlif.l tliis wduM comr tmr ; ntld 1 <)l(l not t^rttit Vf)U to 
thvoW Vr^tnsrir n^Vf1y on !t rliild likr Molly MotirMirfT lor 
tiic sftkr of lin ttiitii))(My Htllr Ibrtunc. hid \\v U()\ 
\\\\:\\^ «?rty thnt nheii rilhrt of tis wms tirli wr tvotthi ^liruf 
Witii tlir othrr? Tluit i^ ^vli.'il 1 nirnnt, |.'t« k, luvnllRc yoti 
know yoti nhvnys snirl tlmt \(n\ o.itrd for ww, ftt:(l th.-it if 
bnly t Were not poor, you wotilrl l>c hnppv njtii tne n^? 
yoiif wife, tt is not rxrtrtly tlir riglil tliiim for tnc to sny 
!hi«^, is it, cicjti ? \M\\ tliitm"^ ;tr(* so iijisitir donti .'UhI '^(i 
very like :t frtiry t.'ilc, tlint 1 \'vv\ ns if \ lind tlir right to 
trVrrsc otir rrsprrtivo ^rVr< ;nul ni;ikc von the proposal ! " 
]h\\, in spitr of her hni* c words, she hhished very deeply 
ns she spoke. 

"Why didn't you WArW tne ? Why didn't ynit tell inr 
this hefore ? " srtid Jnek, wrinfiiim her hnnds wihlly in hi-^ 
own without thinking wh?it he did. "Oh, V.tl, if I hnrl 
tnit known ! " 

" l^ut wh.it <1ifleren(e does it ni;ike ? "' said l.ndy Vnl, 
with wide open, unsiispirious eyes. " 1 cnild not tell yon 
then hernnse \ was not sure indeed, I did not ktiou- till 
within the Inst few d.-iys th:it the oil springs hnd lurnftl 
mtt so Welt. And, Of eoutse, yon eould not pursue yom 
srhcnie nhoni Aiolly — yon see ; \ r.in guess the tenson win 
von made love to her ; nnd, indeed, jnrk, 1 think Von ntr 
behaving very hndly ^nnd whv do you hurt nty hands so? 
W1\at is the m.lttet with Von, jnek ? " 

He dmpned her hands sndd«M\ly. 

*'What iio y<ni mean hy saying that 1 could not pursur 
Trty seheme ? " 

"Not after t had s]>oken to Mrs. MonrrietV and tohl her 
of your meetings with Molly why, n\ rcunse you eouM 
not, heranse that was the very thing that Would vex Ahiti 
MonrriefV beyond e\-erything." 

" And whv on earth should t oate wheihe* 'VtcUn-rijMT 
WAS NTXcd or not ? V\>r heaven's sake, eoim- to the 
point." 

l/Sdy Val looked at him full in the \]\rv and bit her lip. 

" Tf \-tMi wanted to marry the girl for her money, Mr. 
Moncrieff's %-exation is \-ery mneh to the point. Vou see 
I am not giving you the credit of supposing that yon 



m^. fVck'or wp. ffotf.^n. 



lAj 



wished fo \nr[tty her U}t !nv^ ; .inH, cnrmidcrinK How \ 
(H^d to |»rt'ju:li ((|» tlie flfrcs^ity f>f irnrfyinK f"'" ffi'>f»fy, I 
rntl'l '''IV imnh ft^Min'^f it to yriM, fri< k, fnit I Hofi't ftrifik It 
right, nlfrr nil. And yon know, of rrxirsc, timt Molly 
won't 1)0 ahh' to toinh ;i fnrthitig of hrr rnofjcy irntil rIi^ is 
twrnty-onc, if she fn;irrifs withouf hrr fnthcr's consent. 
As she is Imrcly eighteen now, it wfiuhl hnrdly snit yon Ui 
ttmrry hei nnd wriif 'hree yf^;\t^ in poverty, wo((hl it?" 

She \\;\^ startled l»y the ejae.iilation thnt fell from Mnn- 
nitigtoti''^ lips. 

" I h.ivc mined myself for nothing, then ! " he ex< Inimed, 

She looked rit his p.ile ^^a^ and frowning hrows, an<l a 
fainl snspi(i(»n hegan to ereep into her mind. 

" What have yrni (hine ? " she asked 

He turned towards h'-r and f aiight her in his arms. 

" I never knew fill today that yon cared tor me, Val," 
he said. " l( I had known - oh, my (Jod, how different 
life would have been for hotfi of ns I Kiss me, darling- 
lust once ; kiss me and tell me that yon love rne, \ have 
Idved yon all these years, and tried hard fo hgfit it down. 
Von are the only woman in the world, as / havs often told 
you, that I ever loved ! " 

she was not frightened hy the hoarsely sfKjken words, hy 
the rough embrace, or the man's passion of love and grief 
• — passion such as she had never thought him capable of 
before. She lifted her face and allowed him to press his 
lljis tn hers for f»ne moment of mingled bliss and agony. 
'I hen she drew I er face away. 

"There !" sh* said. " Ves, I love yon, jack, wifli all 
my heart, and I always have Ifjved you, and f have always 
done my best, as far as I knew it, for your welfare, ft is 
because 1 love you that \ don't want you in do or say any- 
thing now that you may live to regret. So tell me plainly 
what all this means." 

" It means, Val," groatied ftannifigton, heavily, " ffrat 
—although 1 lov<'d yon — I married Molly Moncrieff this 
morning, and that she is here in Glasgow with me." 



I f 



i<U 



^//A tfh'A' Of' lffr< fn>a\% 



vMwyy^M XXIV. 



'Vnr hon"«r1\(>M nt rovvrsinnli h.nl Wvw niotmrtt itt «|pfn! 
i>! iiight by noises wtiirh wrvo M nhnning ns ihry wefc 
mvsirrions. A ciy» rt srnDIc •AiU\ i\ ^Isiiil simt. rollnwcit 
\ns "xoww o\ \\\p srvvnntf* ilorliwnt) In ihr sotiinl of hjtwHIy 
ivlvrr>tinfj I'ootstf^ps :\\\\\ iA\\'\.\^v \s\\rrU itlonji Hu' to;ul. 
•■;n»sod inu h r\«itenuMH. sind it svit*? KtMinnllv thoufilu 
ilvit ihc plAre hnd Inm entiMrd l\v bur^hits nim Imrl 
hvew i\\<i\\\\hvi\ nt thrit svorW. rhif< iluoty uns rtt fit it 
n>vrotvMrttril by the tlirt \h;\\ Mt. MonnirtV, ot\ ptoirpilitm 
to the Vowov, f'omul thr iloots open, ntul )\is Rott ntnl 
bvothrr in l.iNV hin^ itn rtpitrit.ite«1 (>t\ .he lloor of Kit\^ 
seo1t'<; sittingioonv Ueitir \V;\s i\\v\v \nnM>ttsriotis : hr 
seemeii \o l^.nt' been sinnne«\ l>v ;\ severe Mi)\v oti the 
hertil ; nnil Kin^seott's left rtvm \v;ts fo\nul to he broken, 
nn»1 r\Tn shi^ttennl, l^v i\ shot fVont the revolver, whieh» rts 
Mot\x-vie(^'noteil with surprise, bore lUttie's ttnnie engrswal 
npon it. A\u\ \o\)\A not. thetrlore. be rt Inir^hrt's wenpon ! 
Ue w.-xs ;0{irme»l niso t»> tin«l th:\t U;ilph wns lot so h)ng 
\nu■ol^s^io^ls, a\u\ .i]>p.irently tn^rble to giv«» any .ler-otint 
of the nt^V.iy : it \v.is qnite ten or fn\eet\ ntii\ntes before 
.inythini^ nuelligible eonid be e\tr.irte<i front hitn, jnnl 
\<oner\eft'NV,is son\eNvh.it ^^\t77le^l by this eurions tnnbility 
to spe.lk. As .\ m.ltter of fnet. Uj/lph ?<itty;s« ott \v;ts too 
w.-xrv to rome to himself ns so\^^^ ns he might hnve ilone. 
He \\u\ not \v;\nt to pnt Me.nt riefl" on the tinek of Itis 
frien»i U.-xntungton ; .ind the longer \^\n•snit e«njld be 
tiol.iyovi, the grorttet ehan» e \\ai\ ll;tnttinghm of gettittg 
c1e.iv .iNVAV. 8e.inh \v.is of course tn.u^e .it onre iti the 
gn")\nvv1s .in^i '.vo(x1s .ibont the honse. but nobody eotiUl be 
foimti, A\u\ rl \\-t\s some titne befoix* one of the tnaiils 
dotl.iivii that she had heard the stnnvd of wheels ow the 
high i\>ad. 

*' Wheels ! Of a cart, do you think ? " Mr. MotnirieH" 
asked her, , /**• 



tnn ivcK- or rnn. nousn. 



t%i 



*' U Wftt Itrnvlft th.'tti n tftrt, sir. It was malr like % 
trtrtlrtgr n\\t\ juiif." 

" Nntmrtiwp ! " Mr. Mntw rifffsftid, iinprtfirfttly. " VVhftt 
iV(Mil»l rt riutififir Mtwl pnlf hf (Iniiig Mu'tf nf tfinf lifMir of 
tlu- tiiglH ? " 

Htrniigf to HMv, hnwpvrr, llif ^Mrdr-itrr, wlioqr roffnj^r 
Wrt« rl»mf io (Ih» f»»ft(l, f orrnlifirMfpd flu* fiiMifl'M «f,'itf*frifht. 
He nho lunl liiMird lln* 'tnimil of wfiffls ; miwI, om looking 
oiif of IiIm wiiwlow, (if lin«l nv^n ft < ftrrlftg** ftnd pnlr dfiving 
ftitJ<Mmlv down flu* roiid. 

"'I'luMi tlifti \m\ tiofhing fodowMli \\\U n^ut ,'' ntyh\ Mr. 
Motirrlpff, (le«!iaively. " RoMicrM df» noJ i;ome in rftt- 

fh» w,i« hiftiiiig iwv'.yy, wlifti lih ftttf-nlinn wfi« rtrfMtpH 
\yy M word from KiMfTsrod'q li)»«i. SfcIlM wmm lifiidifig ovpr 
hilti rttul tfyii'M <f» do Konu-llnng for lilMftrrn ; l>uf tfif word 
ho utirtrd ntndf \\vt htin«) jrtll Hnddfiily to h^t r\(\t, 
" Hfintiiti^lon," In- M.-nd. 

Rtidl.r ItMll f;»iMt'd lH'f«»'lf, gl.'uu ed round lirr, nnd said, 
rtlnioMt lu'low )i«M InrMtli, 

'•VVhrtf i« M..lly?" 

Slip timnght thtil Alnn wnnld, if lu- ronld, linvp nnnlhl- 
Irtted her on tin* Kpot. " In lier rt/om, f»f rour«ip/' he 
niHWPt»M| strrnly. " V»hi jitf . nnr-rvHl. Rtfllft. W hit Is 
U.'tlpb HJtying? Atlpnd U\ HcriW- I will l»iok rtftpr Rftlnh. 
1)0 ytni know me, Rtdjjli? Who did this? Who lias 
lu'lMI \\v\v ? " 

" ll.'iiHiington." 

•' Unnnitigton ! Ito dorn nfit kn(»w whni Iip is snylng," 
hrtiti Ahin, tot thr iM-nrfil (if lli«* listpncrs Hionnd him; 
l>til his Ifup hlnnrlu'd m IIiiIp mI iIip soimd. " Von nfrcd 
not riowd into this rootn," liP sfiid, aildrr.jsing liimself to 
the srM viints. " There is no fiirthri- ( nnse for nlnrrn. We 
will get ^\r. Kinirsrott to bed, utjd Mr. Herfie nlsf» ; f 
hope tluit the (io( tor will he here presently. A^ffW, 
n.ilph ?" 

Kingsrott oprjRMl his eyes. A r(mtrn< tion of pnin 
rroHsed his brow. " Whni ! |)id he sli(»(»t mf ? " he 
nsked, tryifig tr» sit tip, hnt turning whiter than ever with 
the elTorl ns he moved. " The yonng s( (Mnidrcl I " 

" Of whom nre you spcnking, l<.'d(»h ? " 

•'Of HiMtie, of «o(Mse. Isn't his revolver anywhere 
flhout ? He shot me, J tell you, wiielher by arcidentor 



I I 



m 



i 



K' '■ 



lf« 



yw. nvA' ot- rnr- fhH\sf<, 



tuMv 1 irtnM Rrtv. 1 \\\\\\V \ knni I<«mI Www A\w\w \w vptiifh. 
Whitl ,t>/- \yw\ {'.\\Vw\a mImmii. Krtlph P IMil not bur- 






« 



Muiwl.un ! I'tMi.iinlv niM. John M;M\niiif>iim illtl -if 
y^^U r:ill lnn< :< ^^n^l:U \\v htis Hlolt'n oin- iiiin|.>, \\\ lUiy 
V;\hv H«ni' vnn mnnr In.nnlv iImm«'? Tins pMin ni!»ke« 
WW Uh'I nnr.>n\n^«n\lv sii U." 

\\m\ \\\\^ ohhfjnl In lonhnl Ins impnlirnrr nhilr ht» 
jV«Uv \\s\' \WM\\\\ ; inn hrfini' Kin^mtMl \\\\\\ sw^llnwiMl it, 
A \von\:\n siMAN^tW vrtnir (Uitij^ int»» tl\f ronni wiih niMVR. 
'*' >h, Htv, oil ; nunn ' Miss Molh's nn in InM IumI. nm in hct* 
i'\>t\i» nov (nuwhotv ! Ship's ntjty !»«' In^lin^, <n i .nnvil nff 
In ho h>MvMs ** 

vS .*'^•^, who w.H now mtmilinfi in Ih'viir's wnnt«i, tnt-nnl 
^^^ NViuM ;\nil Hr;U0il w linr tow{n«l«* \\v\ hnslnnul tluit rvpn 
\\\ \\\\S\ \\\iw\w\\\ \\[ MwWw h«» wn^ Rti\n K hv its r\)nrssion. 

*'Sonil tho wtnn.^n iUViyv/' U;»lnlnnninnniMH:nntly. "I 
think \ \'A\\ ovpl.nn." 

\\\ \ton« vii n Ht»Mt\lv ohUmimI ih« ^ivl ont of tho room, 
rtni! th\-n UiOph in\ninnv«Ml his f\pl;\t\:Hion w\ his Inothrr- 
inlrtW*so;U. *' r\n MlVrtiil that Molly Mollv hns I'lopril 
\xith t^mninwton.** \w ^mkV " ^/♦ft» wtMp Rtorthng t)t«t hv 
tho ih>ov \n \\w rowov whon 1 i .nno npon ihiMn. Molly 
\\\\\ rt h.i)i ; r]\«» >v,is \\\ her i lonk nn«l hat, llrrtio w.is 
with thtMn ^vrh;1^^s ho nH\\nt to ^o too : I « nn't rmv. t 
rwshtnl tovWiUil to stop Molh .mil \on scr lluMrs\«lt 

Stolli^ s]>rj\ng \\\s \\\\\\ ;v i rv. " t>h, it y{\w\ W \ it rrtn't 
Iv ! '* slw ovolj^n^UH^ hi>stiMn\^ to hn Inishrtmrs sinlip. The 
gt^^y vh,it\gv in his trt\e rthntnoil hor. " Alrtn, it rrtt\'t l»e 



t» 



tr\t^. 

Sho pnt \\t\ \\M\y\ on his :irni. Inn hr ropiilsnl hor, sportk- 
ing h.ivshlv in his griol. " Wns this vo\n si niM t' " hf s.iiil. 
** Won'' v\>n h<M\^\nJi n\y il.uightor to bring tlisgnioo upon 
luv n,in\o ? '' 

" Alrtn. \\\>>\\\ srtv s\uh ,1 orvjol thing. I Vwvw that Mr. 
H.inniivgton hrtvl mot her— 1 was trying to put au end to 
\\ - \ h.iil no iviort th;U Ntolly ovor thong)\t of Ic.i'viug us in 
<his Nv,iv ! (>hs o.inm)t >vc stot> hor? rntuiol wo bring hor 
l>Aok ? "' 

" l\\> Irtto/' srtid AlrtU, grituly. " IC \ oonld. 1 wouUl 
n^^t nvnv. Mollv is no longvr a ohild of mine. 1 hrtvo 
done >vith hor tx>r ever. And it Hortio h.is liclpcd her to 
dis^ravx" hcrscU" in this wav, I will — — '* 



fffn nu'K or rn/f rfotfsft, 



\^l 



(*lin^ii*U !*• liHii, iiHIhmi^Ii tlt(> MJ^iit of ItiM ri^id iuhI rrpf>l< 
lrtn< rttlilmli'. his Hnv lyrq miiiI Mlcinly si-i frtCf, Woul'l 
iHunlly \v.\\v l»((«n fnuii^li In qffirlh' Im'» into qlliMHC >iih1 
•<Ml»mi«»«iiMn Ki^l^ql Mil, wrtlrlnn^ Ihm i ynii m!'v in q|tif»» of 
till' pitin Hull Im" s)in»'K(). iltoii^hl lo liiin«»«M it In- woiilil 
ns ««oon hnvc ihiown liin uiiiim fonnd llw ih' V it rtii inriiri- 
rttnl linn Mnl Sldlu wn« niificMl oiH o| hcisi.,. itiid beyond 
\\\v dontinioii of \v\\r. 

AInn'M hfind liiid rlnn hcd il«<r»lf flrfrply ; lln* wofdfl Upon 
hit (inline luid Immmi IihmIi ihkI liitlci, itnd even h'rrilde to 
lnMH Innn M ImIIu'i'm lipq, Itni llif linnd n'l.-ixrd, tl.r wordi 
diiMt into Milrnn'.niid liis liiii voiiny wife t l<in^ to liini and 
gji^ctl plondin^lv into lii'< liu r. A look of nngtiiqli took the 
plnrr ol liny ; hi* tnnuMl nwiiy, pln« in>/ hi^ luind over his 
pyes, rtfl if it» shni Mit lh» i«»M)n of wifr nnd «»«Mwind nhsfiit, 
JMfin^ tlfiuj/htiM. Slollfi s IS Idigrdlo rrh'HWf* hitn, hut qhe 
h'lt iiririwdtdM. fiM p' » ^v t(»o fnuf h liewildrrc'd nnd 
distirssrd to think jii 'h, \^{ jiisl ihcii thftt hrr interuofli" 
linn hitil imt l»eon wiiht t rlTcrt Alan staj^tfered a littlo 
in hi'^ walk as hp w» Mt hhiidly towanl th<' door j Init he 
reftiflpd ail offVicd jv ;! :«liai|^htnuMl hini^rlf, anil walked 
onlof Ihp room with hrad hrld hi^hjuit a faro like inarhle 
and pvrn like livinu i oah. 

Kintfmolt mvnk liark with a j^roan of pain, and called to 
the nhl btitler to jjive him moir liraiidy. Stella hastened 
to Hertie'R side, for the lad's ryes were nnrlosed, and he 
had raiseil himself on one arm with a bewildered air. She 
I'onld not leave him to the servants at that moment, 
Although her heart yearned after her husband In his agony 
of wotimhMl love and pride. 

'• What is it? What rloes it mean?" mnrmiired Hcrtic. 

" Don't talk yet," said Stella, gently. " Do yon feel 
any pain? We must have yon taken to yonr room when 
you arc able \v move, and lhedoit(»r will be here directly." 

" I'm tvot hurt, sa . Hertie.in a stronger voire. "Only 
a Httlo dazed, I hink. What was my father saying about 
meP I did not understand " 

" You had liettcr hold your tongue," said Kingscott 
from the eourh on which he was lying, in tones rendered 
htir'th, presumably by pain. •' You can do no good by 
Ulking/' 

Stella was sorry to see that the lad cowered when these 



I '. 



I ! 



! ' 



I Vl 



i ! »'l 



■ii,i 



\An 



77//; LCCA' OF rffF. NorsF, 



,i i 



xvi)n!s were s!>(>ken a**, lho\igh tliry <(>ti<rtinf«! ji thrent. 
She reilouMeil her ittlentioiis to him, niul was rewrtnled 
presently i>y ftnihng thnt, althotigh still sii W and (ftinl, he 
was able to move without ilifTu nlty, thru, thinking that 
she «oul(l he of no nsi* at present to Kingscott, she wtiil 
away from the Power to tnake intpiiries anont Molly, and 
to give any orders that might he re(|uire<l. 

Alan was invisible ; the resp«)nsibility for every kind of 
attion seemed at on<e to have fallen on her sho\ilders. 
The servants turned ti^ her as if knowing instinctively that 
her head was sure to be rlear, her judgment sotmd, and 
her will derided. She had to restore order, as far as pos- 
sible, to the distracted household, and provide for future 
eontingencies. Notwithstanding Alan's derlaration that 
he would have no more to do with Molly, shr sent mes- 
sengxjrs in one or twti directions -the coachman to the 
raihvay station with orders to telegraph to the station- 
master at Perth — a groom in another direction with some- 
what similar injunctions. She tho\iglU that there might 
still be a chance of finding Molly and bringing her Inu^k. 

Hut her hopes grew small wIumi, after a consiilerable 
search, she found a letter adressed to herself in Molly's 
rooiti. It was short, but clear enough. 

"As you are so determined to prevent my marriage 
with Jack," wrote Molly, •' we have thought it better to 
take matters into our own hands, jack is wailing for me 
with a carriage in the road. We shall not go to Dunkeld or 
to Perth, so you need not look for us there. We shall l)C 
married to-morrow morning, and then I will write again. 
I have written to my father, and I hope that he will not 
be angry with us. Indeed, I would not have taken this 
way if you had not driven me into it by trying to come 
l)etween me and Jack. I am sorry for my father's sake, 
but not for anything else, because I love Jack better than 
anybody in the world." 

She had signed her full name at the end — " Mary Helen 
Moncrieff." 

Stella was cut to the heart by one sentence : "I would 
not have taken this way if you had not driven me into it 
by trying to come between me and Jack." It was hard to 
make her responsible tor Molly's wilful rashness ! What 
an accusation it was ! She could not condemn or acquit 
herself exactly. She had erred in trusting the lovers too 



!(<».' 



elen 



\j(r' 7UE LUCK OF THR HOUSE, 169 

T ' * 

tmirh ; slv hnd creMHtcd tlu'in wifti n wenfle of honor 
which it srcinptl they <li<l ""• pos^rss. Ihil then, who 
wotild linvc tlioiight that John llMiiniii^ton, a nmn of ^ood 
family if not (.f wealth, w(miI(1 Ii;iv«- ho far forgotten the 
traditions ol his rac »• as t<i urge an inrxprrienrecl girl of 
eighliH'ii to t'lopj' with him I Ihe thing was in< redihiy dis- 
grar.efnl in Stella's eyes ; and she knew that it would he — 
if possible even more so in the eyes of her huslmiid. 
} Must she show him this letter, in whic h that arcuHing 
sen^eiHM* sctined t«) stand ont with sinh terriiile distinct- 
ness? She winced at its latter words -" trying to come 
between me and Jnck." What would Alan think of that ? 
She dared not crmsider ; she thrust the letter into her 
|)orket, resolving to show it to him at (mcc, without regard 
to ronse<|uences. Hut this she frnmd U) be impossible. 
Jle had locked himself into his study, and answered when 
she knocked with a re<jiiest that he might be left alone. 
His tones were nniflled and imnatural. Stella thought, as 
she lingered wistfully »)Utside his door, she was almost 
certain that she heard the sound of those heart-rending 
sobs which are the last expression of a strongman's agony. 
'J'hen she was summoned away by the announcement of 
the doctor's arrival, and found herself obliged to explain 
the state of affairs to him, and to conduct him to his 
patients. 

Kingscott'a arm was seriously hurt, and he did not scru- 
ple to attribute his injury to Hertie's hand. His ingenuity 
did not desert him in the midst of all his pain. He was quite 
ready with an elaborate and highly-colored version of his 
experiences, by which it was made to appear that he had 
been utterly stirprised by the appearance of Hannington 
and Molly, that he believed JJertie to Ix; helping them to 
elope, and that he had done his best to prevent the catas- 
trophe that had followed. Even Stella did not know what 
to believe when she heard his plausible tale. It sounded 
so rational, so consistent ! She could not imagine that 
Ralph Kingscott had any reason for wanting to sec Molly 
married to John Hannington, and it did not seem likely to 
her that he would invent the story that he told. On the 
other hand, she could not make \ip her mind to believe 
that Bertie was so careless of his sister's fate, so weak and 
deceitful, as to net in the manner indicated ^y Kingscott, 
She hoped that Alan would be able to solve the mystery. 



^ I 



A,' 



I i!l 



f i 



170 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



Bertie had been stunned by the blow on his head, and 
felt faint and languid when he recovered consciousness ; 
otherwise he was not hurt. The doctor sought and obtained 
a few minutes conversation with Mr. Moncrieff, whe receiv- 
ed him courteously, with no trace of past emotion, and 
listened to his report of the patients' condition with cold 
attention. " He's just like a stone," the doctor said to him- 
self as he came away. It was only Stella who guessed the 
intensity of the torture from which Alan was suffering just 
then. 

She herself did not gain access to him until the afternoon, 
when, on passing the door, she saw that it was ajar and 
heard him call her by name. He had known her footstep, 
and wanted to speak to her. She was shocked to see how 
gaunt and haggard and old he was looking all at once. 
He stood in the middle of the room, with one hand rest- 
ing on the table ; in the other he held a letter which he 
proffered her to read. 

" You can see it," he said, hoarsely, " it is from her." 

" I have one too. I have brought it for you to see," said 
Stella. 

• He took it from her hand, but did not read it immedi- 
ately. He seemed to wish that she should first read his 
daughter's letter to himself. 

Stella was astonished by its tone. It was utterly different 
from the tone adopted in the epistle to herself. Three 
pages were filled with protestations of penitence and affec- 
tion ; there was a humble plea for her father's forgiveness 
which did not sound as if it came from Molly at all, and 
there was an intimation that letters would find her at a 
certain hotel in Glasgow, from which place, she said, 
" Jack " intended to go to the Trossachs for a time. 

When Stella had put down the letter — not knowing 
exactly what to say or think of it — Mr. Moncrieff" began to 
read the note that Molly had written to her stepmother. 

" Ah, that is genuine," he said, with a sigh. ,^^.. 

" You don't think the other isV '^'^ ' 

" No. I suppose that it was * inspired ' by Hannington. 
Molly was never -so affectionate to me in her life." 

There was a pause. " I wanted to tell you," Stella began, 
but her husband hastily interrupted her. 

" Not just now. Tell me nothing at present. I have 
notheard Ralph's story yet or Bertie's." - 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



171 



*' But mine ought to come first," said Stella, quietly. 

He looked keenly at her. ** Well," he said, wincing a 
little as if something hurt him in her aspect," tell your 
story then — in as far as it refers to Molly only. If you 
have anything else to say, let it wait. I want to know 
about her affairs only for the present." 

Stella would not let herself be wounded or dismayed. 
She began her story at once — the story of Lady Valencia's 
warning, of her expedition to Tomgarrow, and her inter- 
view with Hanningion and Molly. Her voice faltered a 
little as she told of the week's respite that she had given 
the lovers — never dreaming that they would take advan- 
tage of her trust in them to cut the Gordian knot in this 
discreditable way. There was a moment's pause when 
she 1 id finished. 

" This is all you know ! " said Alan, in the dry, hard voice 
which sounded so little like his own. 

" Yes." 

" And it did not strike you that your first duty in the 
matter was to me ? — that I ought to have been told at 
once ? " 

" I am very sorry," murmured Stella. 

" You ought to be sorry," said her husband, bitterly. 
" With a little more judgment, a little more wisdom on 
your part, this misery might have been avoided. You 
must know that." 

He checked himself, for, with all his anger, he could not 
bear to see the look of pain and grief which his words 
brought to his wife's white face and quivering lips. He 
did not quite mean what he said. It was true, perhaps, 
that an older and more experienced woman might for a 
time have staved off an elopement, but he acknowledged 
to himself that where persons of Molly's unbridled temper 
and Hannington's lack of principle had been brought 
together, no bonds could possibly restrain them effectually. 
He wouid have told Stella so : he would have gathered her 
into his arms and comforted himself in comforting her, bat 
for that seciet root of evil — the suspicion of her truthful- 
ness, which Kingscott had implanted there. If she loved 
another inan, why should he ca:e to soften his tones or 
extenuate her womanly weakness ? There was nothing 
so abhorrent to him, he told himself, as deceit. 

He stood silent for a moment, conscious, without lifting 






:| 



172 



THE LUCK OJ' THE HOUSE, 



his eyes, of the tears that were fast falling over poor 
Stella's pale cheeks. She wiped them away very quietly, 
as if she hoped that he would not remark them, and her 
silence half softened, half irritated him. There was stern 
impatience in his tone when he spoke at last. 

"You have no more to say at present, I suppose? There 
are other things to be touched on later — just now Molly's 
affairs must come first. I have sent to ask Ralph if he 
can see me, and he is waitinf,' for me, I believe. I have 
sent for Bertie, too \ and I shall be glad if you will accom- 
pany me to Ralph»'s room. By a comparison of evidence, 
we shall joerhaps get at the truth of the story." 

Stella did not know exactly what he meant ; but she 
followed his directions meekly, and went with him to 
Kingscott's rooms in the Tower. Ralph was in bed, evi- 
dently sufiermg much pain, but quite disposed to give his 
version of the story at any length that might be required. 
Bertie was also present. He looked white and distressed, 
and did not venture to sit down until his father curtly told 
him to take a chair. And then Ralph was requested to 
state what he knew. 

He gave his account much as he had given it before, 
but not without interruption. At one or two points Beiue 
burst forth indignantly. "I knew nothing : I was no' :n 
league with Molly. It was not 1 who fired the revolve." 
And last of all, ** Then what were you doing in my fathers 
study at one o'clock — ^just before Molly went away ? " / 

Kingscott shook his head pityingly. " It is a pity thai 
you sliould try to afiix blame on me, dear boy," he said. 
'• The only excuse I can make for you is that you are 
suffering from delusions caused by an over-excited brain." 

" Pray, what were you doing to be out of your room at 
that hour of the night ? " said Moncrieff to his son. ' * 

Bertie answered by telling his own story ; but it was 
easy to see that Moncrieff did not in the least believe it. 
He believed in Kingscott, apparently, and in nobody flse. 
Neither would he credit Bertie's statement that he knew 
nothing ( ** or very little " — a damaging qualification — ) 
about Molly's meetings with John Hannington. Matters 
became worse when Bertie, in passionate self-vindiciition, 
turned upon his uncle and accused him of treachery. Mr. 
Moncrieff silenced him, angrily — all the more angrily 
because ho was certain, from a look in Stella's face, that 



TttE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



*73 



she trusted Bertie and not Ralph Kingscott. And then 
Kingscott s»ailingly dropped a word or two which seemed 
innocent enough, but which brought the look of terrified 
submission back to Bertie's face at once. *' You had better 
be (juiet for your own sake," Rali>h Kingscott said. The 
words were unintelligible to Stella : they passed unnoticed 
by Mr. Moncrieff ; but they contained a veiled threat that 
if the boy did not hold his tongue, he, Ralph, would tell 
his father the story of some money transactions which 
Bertie w.^^ particularly anxious that hfs father should not 
know. And so the lad succumbed before the stronger 
will, and resigned himself to bear a burden of blame which 
he did not deserve. 

** There is one thing that I have kept to the last," said 
iMoncrielT, when Bertie was silent. He spoke deliberately, 
but the tightening of the lines about his mouth told their 
own history of pain. " Do any of you know this ring ? " 

He held up a little gold ring, with a red stone set in 
brilliants in the centre. 

" Molly's ! " exclaimed Bertie. Then he glanced at 
Kingscott, flushed deeply, and was dumb. 

'• Molly's, I believe. I found it in a locked drawer in 
my study," said his father, gravely. " I suppose it is easy 
to see that Molly must have been there. To you three 
and to you only will I tell what has occurred. Molly, it 
seems, would not leave the house without possessing her- 
self of her mother's jewels. They would have been hers 
in due course : I hardly blame her for that. But this is 
not all. She has taken papers, representing property to a 
considerable amount ; and— and money." His voice grew 
thick, and his head sank as he spoke. " She knew that she 
was safe — that she might keep her ill-gotten gains. But I 
— I would sooner have lain in my grave than been obliged 
to acknowledge that my daughter — my only daughter- 
was a thief." . - . - f .; ,» r- 






' > ' 



< J« 



CHAPTER XXV. 

I ^ 

HALF-CONFESSIONS. 



;?■?.••. 



■J T 



■y) *i **., 



.If 



If- 



Bertie sprang to his feet. " It's not true ! " he exclaimed, 
in great agitation, '' Mclly had lost her ring : it was not 
Molly who left it there " 



«74 



THE LUCK OF THE tlOVSE. 



He stopped short. Kingscott's eye was turned upon 
liim. He stood, panting and trembling, unable, apparently, 
to utter another word. 

" Do you," said his father, slowly, " do you know any- 
thing of this robbery?" He raised his eyes, and fixed 
them stedfastly on his son's face as he spoke. 

** No ! " cried the lad, almost angrily. " I know nothing 
of it — how should I know ? All I say is that if you condemn 
Molly on the ground that her ring was found in your 
drawer, you condemn her on very insufficient evidence. 
But you always think the worst of us — you always susyect 
us of wrong-doing ! " 

"And have I never been justified in my suspicions?" 
said the father. He did not speak sternly, but in slow, 
sad tones, as of one who had lost all hope. '* I did not 
wish to be unjust," he said, laying the ring on the table, 
and leaning his head wearily on his hands ; "but it seems 
that I have never understood my children." 

An c dd little silence fell upon the group. Nobody could 
contradict him : nobody dared to comfort him. They ail 
looked at him for a minute or two, as if he were a stranger 
for whom nothing could be done ; and then Stella's heart 
went out to him with a rush of passionate pity which she 
would have given worlds to express. She ventured to 
touch his shoulder with one tender little hand, but he took 
no nol^ce of the mute caress. He rose up suddenly, indeed, 
as if he wished to shake it off, and Stella, turning rather 
pale, felt that he was resolved against consolation from her. 
He l3lamed her in part for his misfortunes ; and oh, she 
said to herself, she had indeed been to blame ! 

It was Bertie who broke the pause. He had become 
first red and then white as his father's words fell on his 
ear ; but his eye did not flinch, and a look of strong deter- 
mination had settled upon his face. He stood, grasping 
the back of a chair with his hand, as if he wanted support ; 
but the appearance of extreme agitation had suddenly 
disa])peared. He was now calm, but firm, Kingscott 
glared at him angrily from his pillows, but Bertie would not 
look at him. The spell was broken ; the lad's spirit was 
set free. 

" You have been justified — you have never been unjust," 
he said, quickly. " Rather it is I who have never under- 
stood you : I have been afraid to trust you as I ought to 



iil 



THE LUCK OF THE ItOVSE. 



m 



have done. If you will try to believe me — I know it will 
1x3 hard- -I will never hide anything from you again." 

'* What have you hidden hitherto? " .said Alan, catching 
at once with the suspiciousness that seemed to have become 
a part of his nature at the hint of something concealed. 
His brow, did not lighten as he looked at his son. 

** Several things of which I am ashamed, said Bertie, 
straightening his shoulders and looking his father full in 
the face. '* I have debts, sir, that I had no business to 
contract, in the town. I have gambled and lost money, 
and, what is worse, I — I was mad, 1 think — I altered a 
cheque that you gave me three months ago : I turned eight 
into eighty — it was easy to do — and I yielded to the temp- 
tation l>ecause I was so distressed for money at the time." 

He ceased, looking very white, and still avoiding Ralph 
Kingscott's eye, but retaining the determined expression 
which, as Stella had often noticed, gave him so strong a 
likeness to his father. Kingscott's face was livid, but for 
the moment nobody noticed him. It was the effect of 
this confession uix)n Alan Moncrieff which absorbed the 
attention of his wife and son, who knew so well the exceed-i 
ing bitterness of the cup of humiliation that he was being 
made to drink. 

He reeled as if struck by a heavy blow. His face, 
which had been pale before, was now of an ashen-grey. 
" It can't be true ! It can't be true," he murmured to 
himself. ■ 

" It certainly cannot l)e true," said Kingscott, sharply. 
" Bertie must Ix: raving — or, at any rate, exaggerating 
strangely. Take care what you are saying, boy." And 
then, in a rapid undertone, which did not reach the car 
of the unhappy father, he added — " Do you want to kill 
your father outright by your ill-timed confession ? " 

"Better that Bertie should speak the truth at once and 
for all, Mr. Kingscott," said Stella, firmly. " His father 
will be less hurt in the end by a frank acknowledgment 
of \Vrong-doing than by concealment." The look that 
passed between Ralph's eyes and hers was like a declara- 
tion of war. " Speak out, dear Bertie, and let us hear the 
jvhole truth. Your father can Ixar it — can you not, Alan ? 
And you will forgive him by and by " 

'*I must bear it, I s.ippose," saic' Alan, with a grim, 
grey face set like a rock, " although it. is hard to know 




ti6 



THE LUCK OF THE //OtJsE, 




that both my children — both " He could not finish his 

sentence. 

" Not Molly," said Berlic, qui( kly. *' I am sure you 
may trust Molly — she is not like uk*." 

The genuine shame and contrition in his manner moved 
Stella to pity, but did not seem to affect his father in the 
least. *' Sjx^ak for yourself," he said, coldly: "leave 
Molly's name alone. You altered the figures in a cheque, you 
say : you got the money : how was it that I did not know ? 
I surely must have noticed the discrepancy between the 
sum on the cheque and the counterfoil " 

He stopped short : some notion of his own carelessness 
in these matters crossed his mind. He turned abruptly 
to the bed where Kingscott lay. 

"Ralph," he said, almost appealingly, "explain this. 
It must have gone through your hands. You must know." 

The tears of i)erspiration were standing on Kingscott's 
brow. He was furious, and yet he was afraid. Know ? 
he had known all along ! it was he, indeed, who had 
first suggested the alteration in the cheque and had helped 
Bertie to carry out his fraud successfully. Hitherto he 
had procured Bertie's co-operation in many projects, by 
threatening to reveal the true history of that unlucky 
cheque. Now Bertie had thrown him over : well, he 
could play the same game, and, as he thought to himself, 
he should probaly play ic very much better than Bertie 
had ever done. 

" I know only what Bertie told me," he said, looking 
fixedlv rt i'e lad as he spoke. "Bertie brought me the 
chequ . for jighty pounds, and ingenuously explained that 
you had written eight in your cheque book — which you 
had then left open on your desk. I, myself, at his request, 
took upon me to alter the figures on your book — legally, 
of course, involving myself in fraud and forgery, but simply 
because of my trust in Bertie's word. In fact, I" thought 
so little of the matter that I never even asked you about 
it ; and the item passed unchallenged, you will rcmeniber, 
A7an, in your accounts." 

Moncrieff had seated himself again during this expla- 
nation : he sat silent, with head bent and arms crossed 
upon his breast. It was his own carelessness he knew, 
that had made this fraud possible ; and he was too honest 
a man to acquit himself of blame. But Bertie flamed into 
sudden wratk ^ ' • "• 



THE LUCK' OF THE HOUSE, 



177 



ot finish his 



m sure you 



" I can't stand this ! " he exclaimnd. " Uncle Ralph, 
your story is false from beginning to end. Vou knew — 
you knew everything I You helped me to deceive my 
father : you used to take me down to the town at night 
when everybody thought that I was in bed : your little 
door in the Tower was constantly used at night when we 
went out and in. And now you pretend that you know 
nothing about it. I would have shielded you if I could; 
but this is too much ! " 

"I think you will want * shielding ' yourself: you need 
not talk of shielding me," said Ralph, with irony. 
*' Your stories are as unfounded as they are malicious ; 
and I am sure that your father will give me his confi- 
dence so far " 

" Yes, yes, Ralph, yes, I believe you," said Alan, weaiily. 
" Whom should I trust if not you ? " 

•' Father, father ! " Bertie's cry was full of anguish. 
*' I swear to you that I am speaking the truth : Uncle 
Px.alph is not worthy of your trust " 

" And you a-e ? — is that what you would imply ? " said 
his father, the sarcasm sounding more sad than bitier, as 
it fell from his pain-drawn lips. 

" I am not — I am not — but I w///"bc ! " 

And then, by a sudden movement whi'.h no cnt c» uld 
have anticipated, the lad threw himself at his f'?thcr's feet 
and clas]>ed iiis knees. " I have bee.i wicked and v .ak, 
I have done everything that you despise," he . ltd, vcne- 
mcntly, "but if you will forgive me, fathci T wili show 
you how I repent what I ha\c done, "iou shall not 
always be ashamed of me: you shall sec that I — , 
that I " 

He broke down in a passioi of sobs and tears, siich as 
could not be deemed unmanly by any one who apprtciatcd 
the sincerity of his repentanc* Stella's fear that her hus- 
band would mistrust it amounted just then to positive 
agony. If he were hard, st jrn, obdurate now, she knew 
uell that poor Bertie wouid be driven to desperation. .« 
No such moment of self-humiliation could occur twice in 
a young man's life. If his father did not forgive him then, 
would Bertie ever ask .-igain for his forgiveness? 

Kingscott looked on sardonically. Between Bertie's 
choking sobs, the sound of low, grating laugh jarred 
unpleasantly on the ear. Raloi. knew the value of ridicule* 



"^^ 'x 



ryS 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



<< 



Repentance without 
deed ! " he sneered. 

Alan Moncricff's bent 
He had been sitting in 
head hanging upon his 
upon the floor. When 



confession ? Very genuine in- 



form straightened itself a little, 
a dejected, listless attitude, his 
breast, his gloomy eyes fixed 
Bertie touched him he raised 
his eyelids and looked steadily at the bowed dark head, 
the slight form shaken by uncontrollable sobs before him. 
A sort of quiver passed over his set grey face. Ralph's 
words seemed to rouse him : he turned hastily towards 
his brother-in-law, and addressed his reply to him. 

" Confession has been partly made, Ralph. The rest 
will come later." Then he laid his hand on Bertie's head. 
" I cannot afford," he said, with unusual gentleness, " to 
think that my son wishes to deceive me now." 

Bertie could only gasp out some inarticulate reply 
Kingscott let himself sink back upon his pillows with a 
look of vexation and dismay, while Stella, relieved of her 
anxiety, drew nearer to her husband and his son. 

" I am sure," she cried, " that he is sorry, Alan. Dear 
Bertie, we will trust you for the future." 

The sigh that came as it were involuntarily from Alan's 
lips, the reproachful glance that shot from his eyes to hers, 
startled her a little. She did not understand their mean- 
ing : that had still to be explained. 

Mr. Moncrieff stirred and helped Bertie to rise ; then, 
holding him by the arm, he said a few words very ear- 
nestly. 

" I pray God that you do mean to amend your courses, 
Bertie. \Vithcut amendment there is nothing but miseiy 
before you — misery that will touch us all as well as your- 
self. I will try to trust you, and, if I cannot do it all at 
once, you must remember that when trust has once been 
lost it is not easily given again. But I am willmg to try 
— it is all that I can say just now." 

" Enough, surely ! " muttered Kingscott. Possibly he 
intended Alan to hear. 

'* If you think it too much," said Moncrieff, turning 
quickly towards him, " I will hear your reasons ac another 
time. I have shown great carelessness myself, but it 
seems to me that you have been quite as careless as I. 
There are several points which renuiie to be elucidated 
Lefore my mind can be set at rest.'' . 



W--: 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



179 



nuine in- 



" I should be much obliged to you if you would defer 
the elucidation," said Kingscott, with an attempt to reco- 
ver his usual suavity of ftianner. "You seem to forget 
that I am something of an invalid — that my arm is exceed- 
ingly painful, and that the doctor told me to beware of 
fever." 

« I beg your pardon," said Alan, in a mechanical way, 
which showed that his thoughts were far away from the 
words that he uttered. " I will disturb you no longer. 
Come, Bertie." 

There had never been more tenderness in his voice 

than when he called his son to accompany him, never 

more gentleness in his manner than when he placed his 

hand within Bertie's arm, and leaned slightly upon it as 

I he left the room. It was a sad sight to see him so bowed 

and broken — the blow had been a heavy one, and had 

I turned him from a tolerably young man into an old one. 

It gave Stella a pang to notice that he would not look at 

I her as he passed out. She paused for a minute or two to 

give Ralph some water, for which he asked. 

" I hope," she said, as she took the glass from his hand, 
"that we have done you no injury by talking so much in 
j your room while you were ill ? " 

"Is that meant for satire? " asked Ralph, irritably. 

'Satire: certainly not." 

' You are exceedingly kind, Mrs. Moncrieflf. I can 
havdly say that I have not received an injury in the course 
of the evening's conversation, but I think I know how to 
protect myself." 

" Not, I hope, at the expense of any one's reputation," 
said Stella, gravely. She was thinking of Bertie, but his 
reply showed her that he attached a different meaning to 
her words. "' * ' ''' 

''■ A lady's reputation is sometimes hardly worth pre- 
serving," he said, with the malignant look that she was 
beginniiig to know so well. " You may be quite sure that 
I shall guard mine at any cost." 

She felt iv useless to answer him, and left the room, there- 
fore, almost immediately. A nurse, hastily summoned 
from the town, was in attendance in the next room ; and 
great was her 'ndignation at the state in which she found 
her patient. It had indeed been unwise on Alan Mon- 
crieflf 's part to allow so exciting a scene to take place in a 



I'* 



!■ 



I 






i8o 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



sick man's room ; but he was hardly capable of consider- 
ing anything but his own troubles at that moment, and he 
had certainly never expected the confession that Bertie had 
been impelled to make. He would have gone into the 
matter more thoroughly then and there, but for a glimmer- 
ing recollection that Ralph was ill. And there were so 
many points to discuss, there was so much that was puz- 
zling in the case, so much that filled him with sorrow and 
dismay, that he felt himself incapable of grappling with the 
whole affair just yet. Bertie's heartfelt grief softened him : 
he could not bear to believe the boy anything but sincere. 
It was a relief to his overburdened spirit to think that he 
had yet some one to love — some one, even, though with 
reservations, to lean upon and trust. 

He did not turn to Stella for comfort. He was hurt and 
indignant with her still. He would not question her again, 
and yet he felt that there was something untold which he 
wanted to hear. What it was he did not know, but he was 
miserable until it was told. . ; 

Little by little, during the next few days, he pieced the 
facts of the case (as he thought) together. He was resolved, 
in spite of Kingscott's insinuations, to believe that Bertie 
was guiltless in the matter of Molly's flight from home. 
Bertie swore that he knew nothing of it, and his father 
trusted him. On the other hand, he was equally averse 
from believing that Ralph had been concerned in it. Ac- 
cusation and counter-accusation between Kingscott and 
Bertie he put down to jealousy and ill-temper. Ralph had 
been careless, no doubt, but Alan was not the man lightly 
to forsake an old friend. Careless, but not treacherous : 
that was his version of the story, and the more Stella and 
Bertie blamed " poor Ralph," the more determined was 
Alan to stand by him through thick and thin. 

And so, after several long conferences with one person 
after another^ Alan Moncrieff made up his mind how to 
act. Molly, he decided, was guilty in many ways : she 
had deceived him, robbed him, disgraced him ; the coun- 
try was ringing with the news of her elopement, and there 
were paragraphs about it in the papers which stung him 
to fury. If Kingscott had not been invalided at the present 
moment he would have gone abroad. But business of 
various kinds had to be transacted, and he could not easily 
leave home. Every chance remark that he overheard, 



tliE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



i8l 



every sentence that he read, added intensity to his deep 
(lisi)leasure with his daughter. She who ought to have 
been the brightness of his house, the joy of his life, had 
inflicted upon him a torture of shame and grief which he 
felt that he could never forget — and which he firmly 
believed that he could also never forgive. 

He addressed a few lines to John Hanhington at the 
Glasgow hotel, but sent neither letter nor message to Molly. 
The substance of his communication was very unsatisfac- 
tory to Hannington. Mr. Moncrieff informed him that 
Molly's fortune (the bulk of which was inherited from an old 
uncle, and not to any great extent from her mother, as 
Hannington had thought), was tied up until she attained 
her majority, or until her marriage, if she married before 
the age of twenty-one with her father's consent. As she 
had not chosen to ask that consent, neither she nor Mr. 
Hannington could be surprised if he chose to abide by the 
terms of the will, and he thought that trouble and per- 
plexity might be saved if he at once informed Mr. Han- 
nington of these facts. He begged that he might receive no 
letters from his daughter, and referred Mr. Hannington to 
his lawyer if he wished for any further information. Mrs. 
Moncrieff would forward Mrs. Hannington's personal pos- 
sessions to any address that might be given. He had 
taken means to assure himself of the validity of the mar- 
riage contracted between his daughter and John Hanning- 
ton in Glasgow, and in doing this he conceived that his 
duty towards her ended for the present. 

The tone of the letter was cold, measured, and severe ; 
but it was not the letter of a man in a passion of anger, 
and therefore it was all the more impossible to controvert. 
Neither Molly nor Hannington wrote in reply ; but an 
address was enclosed to Stella, and to this address 
she sent Molly's clothes and books and ornaments 
with a letter full of tender pity and counsel to the foolish 
girl herself. Silence followed it : and what had become of 
the runaway couple nobody seemed to know. 

For some days a slight but perceptible coolness existed 
between Mr. Moncrieff and his brother-in-law. Alan could 
not entirely acquit Ralph of carelessness in the charge of 
Bertie, and Ralph thought it wisest to accept no blame at 
all. But the coolness did not last. How could it last 
when Ralph was working night and day to undermine 



t&: 



fiTE LUCK OF 'rr/E nousP:, 



Alan's trust in everybody but himself? Alan was drawn 
closer and closer to him by the common bond of suspicion 
and distrust. Stella had small chance of regaining his 
esteem when Ralph was constantly whispering evil sugges- 
tions in her husband's ear. Of the last and worst she was 
thoroughly unconscious. 

'' The fact is, my dear Alan," Ralph said, one day in 
his most caressing and compassionate tones, " you married 
a woman who was in love with somebody else, and that 
somebody else was John Hannington. Hence these com- 
plications ! " . , ;^ . - , 
, And Alan believed him. 



1 :•'.-. ') < 



CHAPTER XXVI.' 



LADY VAL SPEAKS OUT. 



. 



\ 



When John Hannington had uttered the fatal words 
which were to divide him for ever from the only woman 
that he had ever loved, Lady Valencia started away from 
his embrace and stood looking at him, the color ebbing 
away from her face and lips for a moment or two, and then 
flooding cheeks and brow in a great crimson tide. 

" Married ! " she said, in a very low tone, at last. 
;** Yes." 

He set his teeth and stood silent before her. No 
excuses ever availed him, he knew, with Lady Val. 
j " You have married Molly Moncriefffor her money?" 

" It pleases you to say so." 

She struck the ground imperiously with her foot. " It 
pleases me to say so. What does the man mean ? Answer 
me, sir, if you please. You have married Miss Moncrieff ! " 
-"Yes." f-pV- ■...;:>.,■,"-:,., n-. I J=^-i .^:ar'v • 

" And for her money? " .i : 

The two looked into each other's eyes. " Curse her 
money ! " Hannington then broke out furiously, " I wish 
her money was " 

" Speak civilly, please," said Lady Val, " I only wish to 
know the truth." - ■^' ' *' • ' 

5JIe took a humble tone at once. " It is very hard fcr 
me to tell you. What could I do ? You yourself advised 
me often enough " 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



183 



al, " I only wish to 



I never advised you to run away with Alan Moncrieflf *s 
daughter — a child of sevent:^en or eighteen ! Why, it's 
madness ! You will be cut by all his friends. You have 
ruined yourselves — both of you ! And, besides — oh. Jack, 
it was a horribly mean thing to do ! " 

She tried to control herself and to speak in her ordi- 
narily brusque, off-hand manner ; but her voice trembled 
in spite of her attempt. Turning sharply away, she stood 
motionless for a minute or two, and then, putting her hands 
before her face, she burst into honest, passionate tears, 
and sobbed heartily, while Jack leaned on the mantelpiece 
land felt guiltier and more wretched than he had ever felt 
since the days of his boyhood, when he used to get into 
[trouble for bullying little Lady Val. 

"Oh, Val, Val!" he said, hoarsely, at last, "I can't 
Island this kind of thing. Don't cry, for God's sake, my 
[dear. I'm a cur and a villain, I believe, but I never 
ihought you cared " 

" I did care. Jack," she sobbed, piteously. 

" If you had but let me know Val ! " 

" How could I let you know ? " she cried, the old im- 
Ipatience making itself visible once more. " It was no use. 
I would not have had you while we were poor, and you 
would have been very sorry if I had. It is folly to talk in 
that way. You know that I — that I liked you, to say the 
least; and if" — facing him defiantly with a proud flash in 
her beautiful eyes — " if you had done your wooing openly 
—if you had gone about your suit as any other gentleman 
would have done — then I could have let you know in time, 
and you might have chosen between Molly Moncrieff and 
Ime!" 

" There would have been no hesitation on my part," 
Isaid Hannington, closing his lips firmly and turning very 
I pale. 

" Perhaps not. I am much richer than Molly will ever 

Ibe, poor child ! " said I.ady Val, with a queer, shaky little 

laugh. " I should have been a better bargain, Jack. And 

what have you gained ? You have behaved like a sneak, 

[and everybody will say so " , . r-^ 

" If you were not a woman, I " 

"You would knock me down, eh. Jack? But what I 
pay is true, for all that. You have behaved badly, I tell 
lyou, and you will hear plenty of remarks to that effect. 



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184 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



I have no doubt that the society papers will take it up. 
And you are not rich enough to override gos^iip : you 
will go down like a stone. Even when your wife's fortune 
comes to you, you will not be ible to retrieve yourself. 
You have done a dishonorable thing, sir, and I am very 
much mistaken if the world will not tell you so." 

" The world," said Hannington, pulling at his moustache 
and looking down, " is generally lenient to a — a — ro- 
mantic marriage." 

" Where there is love on both sides," said Lady Val, 
quickly, " the world is lenient. But it will soon find out 
that you married Molly for her money, and it will revile 
you when it finds out thsc she has none." 

" You are cynical," said Hannington, whose face had 
grown ominously dark, " and not particularly lucid. How 
will the world find out that I am not desperately in love 
with Molly, since I have eloped with her ? " 

" Are you so sure that you can disguise your real feel- 
ings ? " 

*^ Not at all. But I know the world better than you, and 
I think that the world will not care very much." 

Lady Val shook her head. Evidently she did not care 
to argue the matter, but she was-not convinced. 

"You don't think so?" Hannington continued, quietly. 
" Very well. I'll grant you your point. The world will 
despise me, the world will drop me as unworthy of its 
notice. I am ruined. Good. I have lost my character, 
my fortune, my ambitions, my love — everything that makes 
life worth living — that is v^hat you mean to imply ? " 

" Yes," said Lady Val, steadily. " That is what I mean 
to imply." 
' " And you are content to leave me in the abyss ? '* 

" What do you say. Jack ? " 

" I ask if you are content to leave me to my fate ?— to 
leave me to go under, as you prophesy I " 

" Certainly not content.'^ 

" Won't you give me a helping hand out of it, Valencia ? " 

" I don't see what I can do. Jack," said she, simply and 
earnestly, " but what I can do I will. I made a great fool 
of myself just now, I know, and the best thing for us will 
be to forget all about what I said. I shall not break my 
heart because you have refused me, you know." 

" But I shall, Valencia — if you refuse me," 



TM LVCK OF THE tiOVSE, 



i8s 



He caught her hand as he spoke, and tried to draw her 
towards him, but she drew it away with a look of cold 
repulsion in her eyes. 
" Don't talk nonsense, Jack." 

" I am speaking in sober earnest. You acknowledge 
that I can hardly damn myself deeper than by what I have 
done already. What I propose will make matters no worse 
for me than they are at present. You are not a woman 
to be bound by conventional scruples, Val. I know you bet- 
ter than you know yourself, and I am sure that you would 
glory in breaking the trammels that we both despise. Break 
them for me and with me, if you want to make me happy." 
" You seem to think yourself the only person to be con- 
sidered in the matter," said Lady Val, with wonderful 
composure, although she had changed color more than 
once during Hannington's speech. " May I ask whether 
you are also considering your wife's welfare — and mine ? " 
" I am considering yours — because I am sure that I 
could make you happy — happier with me than with any- 
body else." 

" As I cannot remain more than about five minutes 
longer with you," said she, with some flippancy of tone, 
" I don't see that we need discuss the proposition." 
" Val — Val — be serious. Do think of what I mean." 
" I am serious, sir," she said, suddenly drawing up her 
head and facing him haughtily, " and, being serious, I am 
utterly unable even to imagine what you mean. Is that 
answer not enough ? " 

It would have been enough for any ordinary man. But 
John Hannington was bolder than most men, and not in 
an ordinary mood. With his face blanched by emotion 
and his dark eyes on fire, he caught her by the wrists, and 
iDoked undauntedly into her defiant face. 

" You shall listen to me," he said. " We have fooled 
each other long enough. There shall be no want of plain 
speaking now. You must understand what I mean, and I 
must have a positive answer — yes or no." 
" No, then, without further parley, Mr. Hannington." 
" That is folly. I will speak and you must listen." 
" Let my hands go. Yes, I will listen — for two minutes. 
Then you may go — for ever. You were always a bully, 
Jack, and you always will be ; but you have no power over 
me now. Drop my hands at once, please." 






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THE LUCK OP THE HOUSE. 



He released her wrists immediately. There was some 
thing about her which he found it difficult to disobey. Th^ 
scornful nonchalance of the air which she assumed whei 
she gave him permission to speak almost robbed him o| 
utterance. He admired her more passionatety than eve| 
when she disdained and derided him. 

" I want you to come with me, Val," he said, in a voic^ 
so hoarse and so unlike his own that it was quite unre 
cognisable. " Leave Glasgow with me to-night, and let tht 
whole world go by. We could lead a very happy life on 
the Mediterranean coast, or in some Greek island wher« 
Englishmen and Scotchmen are never seen. Why shouk 
we not make the best of our youth ? Life is passing swiftj 
ly by : neither of us can be said to have yet tasted thj 
fulness of its joys. I love you, Val, and you love mej 
can we not be happy together yet ? " 

" May I ask," said Lady Valencia, " what you intend t(i 
do with Mrs. Hannington under these circumstances ? " 

She was utterly unmoved by the fervor of his pleading] 
Her eye was cool, her mouth steay. Hannington resj 
trained himself with difficulty from uttering an angry 
imprecation on poor Molly Moncrieff. 

" We were married this morning," he said, after a rac 
ment's pause. " Legally I should do her a wrong, no doubt | 
but the law would soon dissolve the verbal bond between 
us. She would go back to her father, be forgiven, and in 
due time marry the man that he chose for her. Therd 
would be no barrier between you and me, then, Valencia.'] 

" And what would she feel abowt it ? " 

*< She is a chit of a school girl. She has no heart td 
break as you have, Val." 

" And yet she has given up home and friends for you- 
cast herself on your mercy entirely — and you say that sh^ 
has no heart 1 " 

" Why do you think of her ? Why not think of the longj 
glorious days that we might pass together ? Why shoulif 
we let anything stand between us aud our happiness, dear] 
est ? It is in our own hands." 

There was a moment's pause. Then Valencia gave hin 
an oddly sorrowful, regretful look — a long look, which 
haunted him for many a day — and quietly held out hei| 
hand. 

Good-bye, Jack," she said. " For auld lang syne, I'll 



i( 



THE lUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



•«7 



say good-bye, you see. But I will never willingly speak to 
you again." 

He stared ruefully at her, scarcely crediting her words. 
She let him hold her hand as she went on speaking. 

" You're a bad man, Jack ; I never really thought you 
bad before. But now I think that you are heartless and 
worthless and wicked. I did love you — that's true enough ; 
and it is possible that I love you still — but not in the rame 
way. You have killed the old love effectually, because I 
despise you now, and I can't love where I despise. Why 
didn't you hold your tongue. Jack ? " 

" You had told me you love me : why did you put leinp- 
tation in my way ? " 

*' I did not know that it would be a temptation. I am 
sorry — sorry for you, sorry a little for myself, and, most of 
all, sorry for your wife." 

He growled something of which she could not distinguish 
ihe syllables ; but the tone told her its tenor well enough. 
" You need not curse her for that," she said drily. " You 
asked her to marry you, remember : you beguiled her from 
her home. Nothing you can do for her will ever be too 
much, considering the injury that you have done her al- 
ready. You have alienated her from all her friends : you 
will have to make up for the loss. Now listen to me, 
John Hannington," she went on, drawing her hand away 
and looking frankly into his face. " If the world knew all 
I know it would call you a scoundrel : do you know that ? 
If I do not call you so, it is only because I have a regard 
for my old playfellow, and I hope that I shall one day be 
able again to call myself his friend. At present, we had 
better be as strangers one to another." 

" You will join the world in hunting me down, you 
mean ? " 

" No, I don't. I will do anything for Molly — your Molly. 
I will be her friend if she likes ; your acquaintance only. 
I do not want to harm you, and I shall do you the greatest 
service in my power, Mr. Hannington, if by any means I 
can make you thoroughly ashamed of the words that you 
have spoken to-night. What have I done that you should 
so insult me ? To tell you before I knew of your marriage 
that I returned the affection which you have long professed 
to feel for me, ought never to have laid me open to this 
shameful proposal of yours. I feel degraded by it ; but I 









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t^ 



illE LUCk OF THE HOUSE. 



am not degraded ; it is you, in your wicked fc My and 
madness, that have degraded yourself, and I can only hope 
and pray that you will some day feel as deeply as I feel the 
depths to which you have sunk, and the contempt which 
I and every good man and woman must feel for you." 

She uttered her biting words clearly and distinctly, with 
a ring of scorn in her voice, beneath which any man might 
well have slunk away ashamed. Hannington was bolder 
than most men in his way ; but even he listened to her 
with white lips, and a hang-dog look which veiled a real 
remorse. For once he was bitterly hurt ; he smarted as if 
she had lashed him with a whip ; yet — such was her power 
over him — he did not resent her words. 

" I know that you are in the right," he said, half-sullenly, 
half-sorrowfully, at last. " That does not make it any the 
better for me. Well, I'll go. Good-bye, Lady Valencia. 
If apologies would make things any better I would apolo- 
gise, but I know that it is of no use." 

Lady Val gave him a rapid, scrutinising glance. " No 
use at all," she said, decisively. *' We had better say ro 
more about it, Mr. Hannington. I shall be glad if you 
will go now, if you please." 

He started slightly, took up his hat, and moved reluc- 
tantly towards the door. She watched him as he went— 
noting his bowed head, his frowning, discolored counte- 
nance, his cowed demeanor — and she clenched her little 
hands at her side to keep herself still. For her heart 
yearned over him in spite of his degradation and in spite 
of all the bitter things that she had said ; and she would 
have been glad indeed if he would have given her the 
chance of saying a gentle word to him before he went back 
to his unloved and deluded wife. 

He gave her the chance. The handle of the door was 
between his fingers when he looked back and saw her 
watching him. Her face was calm and cold, but her eyes 
were softer than she knew. He made a sudden step 
backwards into the room. 

" I can't go," he groaned, " until you say that you for- 
give me." 

She hurried to his side — her pride, her self-control, had 
gone to the winds. She laid her hand upon his arm. 

"Oh, Jack, Jack! "she said, "how couid you do it? 
Yes, I do forgive you ; at least, I will forgive you if you 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



189 



will only go home and be kind to poor little Molly. Make 
her happy, Jack, and I will forget all that you have said." 

He took her hand and kissed it : he did not attempt to 
touch the beautiful face, which was yet so perilously near. 
She had raised him to her own height for a little time. 
For her sake he was willing at least to try to do his duty. 

He scarcely knew how he got out into the street. She 
must have put him out and closed the door behmd him. 
He walked on, not seeing the road before him, not caring 
whither his footsteps led him. Molly was forgotten. His 
own misery, his own shame, were present with him : 
everything else was a blank. When he came to himself a 
little, he found that he was sitting on a bench in some 
public place, his elbows on his knees, his hands before his 
face, his eyes dim, and his cheeks wet with tears. Who 
would have believed it of John Hannington? He rose up, 
dashed the moisture from his eyes, and began, slowly and 
sadly, to collect his thoughts. They were anything but 
pleasant. 

And, after meditating in some aimless and hopeless 
fashion for the best part of an hour, he made his way back 
to the hotel where he had left poor Molly. 



CHAPTER XXVn. 



CHARLIE RUTHERFORD. 






A MONTH later, Mr. and Mrs. John Hannington had left 
Scotland and taken up their quarters in a London hotel. 
It was an expensive mode of living ; but Hannington was 
in a reckless mood, and did not scruple to flin^ away the 
very few hundreds that he had been able to raise for him- 
self before his marriage. He had not yet relinquished the 
hope that Mr. Moncrieff would relent towards his daugh- 
ter, and pay over to her the money to which she would 
have been entitled if she had married with his consent ; 
but he began to fear that the father's heart was harder 
than he had imagined, and in that case he foresaw that 
his marriage would prove an utter failure as far as his 
worldly prospects were concerned. 

The husband and wife had just dined in a pleasant, 



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I90 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



bow-windowed room overlooking Piccadilly. Dinner had 
been ordered early — at six o'clock — as Hannington wanted 
to go out for the evening ; and now, soon after seven 
o'clock, the spring sunshine was growing dim, and lighted 
wax candles, with their pretty crimson shades, had been 
set upon the damask-covered table. The blinds were not 
yet drawn down, however ; and the ceaseless noise of 
rolling wheels in the street below was distinctly heard 
through the half-open window. 

" What a noisy place London is ! " said Molly, as she 
listened to the sound. 

" Think so ? " asked Kannington, indifferently. " I 
never notice it." 

" It was so quiet at Torresmuir." 
" Deadly quiet, I suppose. And deadly dull." 
A faint little sigh issued from Molly's lips. But if her 
husband heard it, he was resolved not to show that he had 
heard. He had lighted a cigarette, and was lying back in 
his chair with his face turned toward the window. Appar- 
ently he did not wish even to glance at his wife, although 
she made a picture at that moment which might well have 
charmed the eye of any man. 

He had been rigorous in his requirements during the 
last few days, and Molly had done her best to fulfil them, 
seeing in his critical observations and sharp scrutiny only 
love for herself and anxiety that she should look her best 
in the eyes of his friends. As yet his friends had not 
taken any notice of her. Possibly, she thought, they did 
not know that he was in London with his wife. But in 
view of future calls, invitations, drives, and rides, Molly 
had dutifully visited fashionable dressmakers, milliners, 
and coiffeurs, all of whom her soul would have loathed in 
the untrammelled life at Torresmuir. The result had been 
transformation. Molly was no longer a lovely hoyden ; 
she looked as if she had stepped out of a fashion-book. 
Her hair was piled up on her head in countless soft, shin- 
ing rolls ; it was cut and curled in front, and crimped out 
of all its much prettier natural, waves ; her dress showed 
more of her neck and arms than would have been consid- 
ered quite decorous at Torresmuir, and was composed of 
some soft, creamy white material intermixed with daintiest 
lace, over an underdress of eau-de-nil silk. Knots of rib- 
bon of the same shade fastened a cluster of tea-roses at 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



191 



her breast, and she wore ornaments of aqua-marine and 
cold. The greenish-blue tint was admirably becoming to 
ner dazzling complexion and the ruddy gold of her hair ; 
and Molly knew it ; yet, strange to say, she was not 
happy in the consciousness of her own beauty. She began 
to find that it did not do so much as she had expected it 
to do. A frightened sense of powerlessness had been 
growing upon her during the last few weeks. 

Hannington had rather a jaded and irritable look. The 
anxieties of his position were telling upon him. But as 
yet he had said nothing of these anxieties to Molly. 

" When are we going ? " said Molly at last. 

" Going ! " He started a little as she spoke. '* Oh, I 
forgot to tell you ; I have changed my plans. We can't 
go to the theatre to-night." 

•* Oh, Jack ! Why not." 

" Business," said Hannington, curtly. 

" And we have such nice seats. Oh, what a pity ! 
Can't you put off your business. Jack, dear? " 

" No, of course I can't. Business won't be put off, as 
you ought to know." 

" Then — have you to go out to-night? " 

"Yes." 

There was a little pause. "You were out last night 
without me," said Molly, softly, " and the night before — 
and to-night." 

Hannington glanced at her impatiently. Her eyes were 
swimming in tears ; a drop fell over her rose-leaf tinted 
cheek. 

" If you are such a baby as to cry about a theatre, I 
really don't know what will become of you," he said, con- 
temptuously. " I cannot insure you against all the acci- 
dents of life, I am sorry to say." 

" It isn't the theatre," said Molly, quickly. " It is be- 
cause you will be away from me, Jack." 

" Of all things I hate," said Hannington, half-closing his 
eyes, " I hate most a man who is tied to his wife's apron- 
strings." 

Molly pressed her hands tightly together under the table, 
and tried to force back the tears that continued to gather 
in her eyes. She was learning her first lesson of self-con- 
trol. 

'* I don't want you to stay with me," she said, in a 
choked, mortified voice, " if you don't care to stay." 







?■ 



'••• 



TfTK hUCK OF TffK HOUSE, 



*' All the !)cttcr," Rnid her husband, drily ; •* for I have 
Romcthing clue to do to-nifflit." 

Mnlly RAt fiilcnt, t)iting Tier lips. A thundering double 
knnrk and r i)eal nt the front door bell suddenly rcNounded 
through the houne, and ninde Hannington rrmnc himficlf. 

" You had lictter <lry your cycR and not make a fool of 
yourself," he said, sharply. " 1 expert that that knock is 
for us. Donald Verckcr and a friend were to call for me 
at 7..^o. I hear them coming up now." 

Molly hantily rubbed her eyes with her handkerchief, 
but succeeded only in making them look rather redder 
than they would have been without this process. Han 
nington's frown as he glanced at her added to her agitation. 
It was a ticautiful but very pathetic little face which met 
the view of the gentlemen who entered ; and Hannington 
wo\dd, on the whole, have preferred to see her radiant and 
smiling. 

•• Mr. Verekcr — Captain Rutherford — my wife " — the 
introduction was effected in very brief fashion by Jolm 
Hannington, who wanted to make his escape as (]uickly as 
possible, but was annoyed to find his friends in no hurry 
to depart. Mr. Vereker always loved a pretty face, and 
he had heard enough of Molly's story to be curious about 
her. While Captam Rutherford — Charlie Rutherford, as 
his friends usually called him — having neither heard of 
Mrs. John Hannington before, nor being remarkable for 
his Appreciation of women's beauty, amazed his companions 
not a little by seeming quite unable to take his eyes ofT 
Molly's face, and showing no disposition at all to hasten 
away. Hannington was half-vexed, half-flattered by this 
evident admiration of his wife, and he wished very much 
that he had not acceded to his friends' desire to call for 
him on their way to a music-hall and gambling-house, 
where he intended to spend the evening. 

Molly was not greatly taken by the appearance of Don- 
ald Vereker, who had lately grown red and fat, ano* was 
too jovial-looking for her taste ; but she found Captain 
Rutherford attractive. He was a man of five or six-and 
twenty, tall, fair, broad-shouldered, and muscular, with a 
fair skin bronzed by exposure to sun and air ; he had fair 
hair and a fair moustache, and his blue eyes, though not 
particularly beautiful in shape or color, were so frank and 
honest and manly that it was a pleasure to look at them. 



TNR lUCfTOF THE HOVHR, 



■9) 



blc 
ied 
f. 
\ of 

wc 

hief, 
[U\cr 

Han 
ilion. 
\ incl 
nKlon 
It iukI 

•-^thc 
r John 
:k\y as 
I hurry 
cc, ami 
\ alwut 
brd, as 
ard o( 
ble tor 
)anions 



»yes 



off 



hasten 
by this 

much 
call for 

house, 



1 



)f Don- 
Ino was 
'aptain 
[six-and 
with a 
lad fair 
[igh uot 
knk and 
Lt them- 



He ^nd n gentle, pleaiinnt way of smiling and talking, 
moreover, and lie managed to make liimHelf very agreeable 
during the few mintiteH of his stay in Mrs. Ilannington's 
sitting room, although he spoke neither so much nor so 
loudly as the Honorable Don. 

•• Well, I don't wish to hurry you," said Hannington at 
length, doing his best to H|)eak pleasantly, " but I think 
we had better be off." 

'* And are we going to leave Mrs. Hannington all by her- 
self ?" asked Donald Vcreker. •• That's hard lines, isn't 
it?" 

" Oh, I shall be quite hai)py," said Molly, innocently. 
" I have a novel to read." 

'• She is an ardent novel-reader," said Hannington, with 
a smile. '* She will be (juite absorbed in her three volumes 
as soon as we are out of the door ; won't you, Molly ? " 

•• If it is a nice one," said Molly, smiling back brightly. 
" I'm afraid that it won't be quite as nice as the Lyceum." 

'• Did you want to go to the Lyceum then?" said Mr. 
Vereker. 

'• Oh, we had tickets for to-night," replied guileless 
Molly, ** but as Jack has a business engagement he cannot 
go, so I " — and she laughed a little — " am left at home 
lamenting." 

There was a very slight pause, in which it dawned upon 
Molly that she had said the wrong thing. Her husband's 
Hicc had grown white with anger ; Mr. Vereker lifted his 
eyebrows comically : Captain Rutherford had turned aside, 
and was fingering his moustache. Both visitors knew 
that Hannington's "engagement" was one of pleasure, 
and not of business at all, and if Molly had been a plain 
and insignificant little creature Donald Vereker would 
have considered her ignorance rather a joke than other- 
wise. But for such a very pretty woman to be left to cry 
her eyes out over Jack Hannington's absence (he was sure 
that she had been crying when they jentered) was, after all, 
rather a shamei What Charlie Rutherford thought of the 
matter did not transpire ; but there was a steely look in 
his blue eyes which might have proceeded from indigna- 
tion when he turned round again. 

*' Oh, look here ! " cried Donald. " We'll give up our 
engagement, Jack — important as it is," and he bestowed a 
facetious wink upon Hannington, which annoyed that 

13 



ii# 



■1 

A, 



II 



l.l( 



T7//. H'i K of^ tin' fforst^\ 



v\\\\i\\\\\\\ \v\\ \\\\u\\ iiuti'i'tl : " rtiul wi''ll nil I'M! ml Mm. 

lilUMJII^Iitll tn llir I \Mllin. W hill IlilVt' vhmuuI nImIIh, 



w 



w 



n Itnx ? H ii's M Im»s, wr « (in nil ^ii, v«"t J<ii" 

" ll U \\\\[ II |iM^, uiiIdiIiimiiIcIv," Miiiil |ii«k, i nldly ; 

"wr liiiil sIhIIm I Mill j'xriTiliii^ilv mmiiv. Iml fvrii if yniii 

(■n|< ^M'lnriii JM iini III pirsMin^ iin|MiitaiH c. iiiiiH' m, mikI I 

• iinnoi ^i^r ii nit " 

Ml N'tirkti ItniMi nnl Innuliin^. •' I'm urmiil niiin' Im 

iH iinpnilnnl im vonm/'lir sniil in n low Innnif mi|i|if>'Hm'il 

I'MJitMinnt, wliii ii Mnllv rmilil nnl nmlcisiinnl. 

" i Ml. il i« ol nn I niisn|urm r,*' she siiiil, hni lirillv. " I 

h|\iiII W i>Hitr l);i|t|<\ unit i mnrMildlilr licir ill Iniiiic ; iinil 



Wr 



tli.ill ll 



l.'l\i> jtjrnh iij nlhrl i liMlli rs nl mrlll 



\^ Ifvi 



sliiill Wr nnl. |:ii k f' Null sit," slir iiilili il. willi ii |it»'llily 
Mpoln^'lii nil. " I lidvr ni'vn Ihtii in l.oiulnn lu'lmr, iind 
i k('r|> tlM^•l'llin^ lli.il I iini nnl i^nin^ MWiiy ii^iiin jimt 

" y 'nn I W nl' n«t nm' ? ** s.iiil ( 'M|»l:iin Uiillirtrmil, «Mif»«'tlv 
IN'ih.ipH I iniuhl lu' nllnwnl In cm nil Mm t Itinnin^lnii 



ti 



tl 



ns I'M 



ninji ? 



\ 



Innkin^ Inli nl Hiinnin^lnn " Inivc im 



rn^iim'inrnl «»l nnv kiml. im Mr. \'rn'krr knowH. I wns 
now on inv \v;iv lioim\ iind mIihII lu- tUlighUMi if I inny 
hiWi' llir hnnnr." 

"Vtiv kiinl nf vnu, !*in smo, Clnnlir." siiiil llnnnin}^ 
ton. *' WrII. il vnn «lnn'l iniml lln* Innililc. my wilr will 
lu' « l\;nnu'tl. ll i\ i.ilhri II pily In smiirne l>vn li« krlM " 

Molly lookril nnylhin^ l»nl » lininuMl. MmiiiMl woinnn 
rts slu' WHS. \\\\k\ niuU'V John lliinninglon's Inilion, sho wns 
WW ignovani ol llu» privilrgos of Ium i»osili(m. To go to 
\W ihiwho >vilh a yonng mnn whom slu' hud nevn st'cn in 
hiM lilc luhn»' si'im\umI lo hrr n sluilling pmsiuM I. She 
wvMiKI viM\ mnrh hii>o likril (v» ask lu-i husli;iml in privnto 
wh,\l il wnn "iMoprr" for Ium to <U) ; Init as snrli a qms 
tion was in\|n>ssiMo, sho ronUI only look at him ami al 
Taptain Rvuhiilonl in Inrn with sm h wido oyoil dismay 
that Mannin^ton. sot rotiv rauin^, Irlt it imnmhrnt npi 



f: 



on 



hitu t\> \^lVot some ovnisr lor her \^tU4thi't h 

" Mv wilo is K\\\\w takon alvu k l»v this pleasant sni|nisr." 
ho srtivU \»>v>Uv. " l>nt she will mMlonbt rvpress Ium thank"^ 
to vvni l>v and In. If yon nwllv mean it, that is, C'hatlii" 



— il von have no other engagenuMil " 

*' Not i«'. the least. I shall be nu)st happy to go with 
Mi"^. nam\inglon. I want to see Irving immensely." 



inn ivvN ofi TitK ifitrsn. 



»9i 



II 



i» will 

•on in 

rivnU" 
qurs 

Mul ;»< 

istn;\y 

ui<«»n 

l>iisi\' 



•IIMII 



Run ftwny iiiul ^rl yniir iliKik. Iliiti. Molly. I will 

I for II I III) iJ (MM «'." 

Uliil«*r ritvri III ihm i'xt i|qi III fiijldwiil Im r inin Jlii- inxl 
aioiii, niiii ilirri* M|Miki- smiimwIimI sli!ii|ilv. 

"Villi iiKiy MM will miy it i ivil wmmI Io ( liMflir kulliir 
fiitit, Molly: iImii'I Iti'lwtvc liki- ;i ^irl in llir si lioolroom, 
for ^ooiliii'ss' siiki .'* 

" ( Hi, |ih k ! ■' I f iiil Molly, i liiif^in^ lo Ms nrm, " on^jlif 
I lo ^o P I ilon'l likr ^oiii^ with ('ii|il;iiii KtillM-rloril jiimI 
witlioni you. I hnvr nivii iloiif mii h ji lliin^ lirfnri'." 

•'hon'l Im' jtMidi^li," iiiiil J.ii k. "Von ;ir«' f» inarriiii 
woitiiin now, rriinniliri, iinil ilon'l rri|iiiri' ;i i lia|irron. 



Mnl MS III' p.'insnl jinil joiikiil down at liir, it strm k hint 
(tnil sill' was \v\y v<'nni» and lair to hr li-fl liy hir own 
Inisliand not six wnks altn hit widdin^ day and lift, 
too, lor Miih a nason I I'hi' niomrniary stin^ of i om 
|Mini tion jiassi'd away, Inil it ransid hini to speak kindly, 
ami to lirnd and kiss hrr lips as hr sjioki-. 

"Von will III' all riulit with ('harlii- knthorford, dear 
\\v l» as dull am 



d sli 



:.^ 



i-aoy as o 



hi i 



tiiii' 



llr'll lakr ( arr of 
yon as if \\v wire a dowamr. ( H i oiirsr I should not allow 
you to do anything nnsnilahlr ; you must have nie to deride 
these mailers, you know. Now, don't look doleful: give 
hie \\ kiss ami Im> a ^ooil ^irl." 

Molly's eyes Ini^lileiied as she returned her hushand's 
.salute. It was not often that he spoke so affei tionately 
nowmlavH : she had found out that the lime of ronipliments 
and caresses was passing l»y. I'',ven iti the early days of 
their married life she had milired that liis moods were 
fitful, and that his affei.tion for her seemed of an inli.'rmit- 
tent rharaeter. She had not the key to these ehan^cs of 
hehavior, and they jierplexed her j^reatly. Of late the 
moods had been less ihangeaMe, hut the roldness more 
pet-sistent. Her hushand was a riddle lo her, and the 



(tmsidcration of th:s riddle was hrinj/ing a new, strange 
shadow of doubt ami distress into her hazel eyes. 

When Molly had driven off with ("aplain Rutherford, 
ilamiingtoii turned rather i iiriously lo his friend Vereker. 
" I don't understand all this," he said. " Wasn't Ruther- 
h»rd coming with us ? or did he bark out of it for the 
sake of doing the polite to my wife?" 

" He had backed out of it already," answered iJonald 
Vcrckcr. " He swurc tluit he had had no idea what the 



I 



! 



i f 



■ , 



I ^ 



tg^ 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSM, 



engagement meant ; and that he would no more go to that 
music-hall and then to Lulli's with us than he would tly.'' 

" I didn't think he was a milksop, I must say." 

" Oh, I knew there was a strain of it in him, but I 
thought that we should work it out a bit to-night. I should 
have liked to set him down to cards at Lulli's : he could 
stand a good bit of play without getting broke, I fancy." 

" Wealthy, isn't he ? " 

" Tremendously so. A very good pigeon, indeed, for 
you, Jack. But ho declines to be plucked, you see." 

Hannington did not like the joke, and frowned in reply. 
But he was sorry that he had missed the chance of " rook- 
ing" Captain Rutherford: his funds were growing low, 
and to win a few hundreds at play seemed to him the only 
way by which to recoup himself for recent losses. He had 
vowed to leave off play when he married a rich wife ; but 
poor Molly — although she might be rich one day — was at 
present almost penniless. Therefore, he argued with him- 
self, another attempt to win back his luck at the green 
table was " absolutely necessary." 

Meanwhile Molly went to the theatre with Captain 
Rutherford, and was much impressed and delighted by all 
that she saw and heard. She found him also a very 
charming companion. He talked to her between the acts 
with a gentle, respectful courtesy of manner, which she 
thought exceedingl/ pleasant ; and yet there was a youth- 
.111 gaiety of hecrt about him which made him seem to her 
like a brother or a playmate. He reminded her of Bertie, 
and she told him so, with a confiding simplicity, which he 
in turn found adorable. 

" Where did Hannington meet her ? " he thought to 
himself, as the youthfui loveliness of her face impressed 
itself more and more upon him. " She does not look more 
than seventeen, and she seems to have no friends in Lon- 
don- What business has Ihat man to neglect her in this 
wa;; ? Who is she, and how did she come to marry that 
hard-hearted scamp ? " 

By which medication it may be seen that Captain 
Rutherford did not read society papers. 

He soon found out what he wanted to know. A chance 
reference to Dunkeld brought the color to the girl's face, 
the moisture to her eyes. 

" Oh, do you know Perthshire ? " she cried. ''' Perhaps 
you know my fatacr ? Mr. Moncrieff of Torresmuir.' 



my 

hear 

wen I 

but : 
it 

said 
think 
"I 
caid ( 
I kne 
fathej 
He 
sudde 
"O 
The o 
what ; 
think 
more. 
"Ol 
not " s 
Moli 
time. 

;'Of 

it is no 

away t( 

my fatJ 

think y 

me, I ] 

not— be 

It wa 

the chil 

could fz 

gown \x\ 

he coulc 



'> 



Capta 
performa 
upon the 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



197 



" Is h: your fathc- ? I have met him several times, and 
my fath:r knows him exceedingly well You may have 
heard o ' my i)eopIe, Mrs. Hannington ? " the young man 
went on questioning. * My father's place is further North, 
but 1 think that Mr. Monciieff visits him sometimes. 

** Is Sir Archibald your -ather? I know his name," 
said Molly, with some little confusion of manner. " I 
think that I have heard of you too.'" 

" I am sure you have — juct as I have heard of you," 
:aid Captain Rutherford, heartily. " But how was it that 
I knew nothing of your marriage, I wonder ? I was at my 
father's in March, and he never mentioned it " 

He wondered why Mrs. Hannington's cheeks had so 
suddenly assumed a vivid tint of red. 

" Oh, stop, please," said MoUy, in a very low voice. 
The orchestra had just struck up, and he could hardly hear 
what she said. He bent his head to listen. " I don't 
think anybody knew," she went on, flushing more and 
more. *' !♦" was — very quiet." 

" Oh, I see," said Captain Rutherford. But he did 
not " see " at all. He was very much puzzled. 

Molly played with her feather fan, and was silent for a 
time. At last, in an odd, abrupt kind of way, sh'^ said — 

" Of course, you will hear all about it sooner or later, so 
it is no use for me to make a secret of it. Jack and I ran 
away together — didn't you know that ? We only wrote to 
my father afterwards. If you are my father's friend, I 
think you ought to know. Because papa is angry with 
me, I believe, and perhaps you would rather not — rather 
not — be friends with me any longer — when you know." 

It was a good thing that John Hannington did not hear 
the childish speech. But Charlie Rutherford felt as if he 
could fall down and kiss the hem of Molly's pretty silk 
gown upon the spot. And then the curtain went up and 
he could not reply. 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 



molly's awakening. 



Captain Ru'lierford did not hear much of the dramatic 
performance that followed. His mind was entirely fiy^d 
upon the information that Molly had just given hiiL,— 



ti 





Ill 



198 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE^ 



information which he found intensely disagreable. He 
had never known John Hait^^ngton well, and he had been 
taken to that gentleman's iiotel by Donald Vereker with- 
out knowing that there was a Mrs. Hannington at all. 
Vereker, it should be explained, had written and obtainea 
Hanningtoa's permission to call for him (" with a friend ") 
that evening, but Charlie Rutherford, Captain of Hussars 
as he was, had not been thought important enough to have 
the position explained to him beforehand by the Honor- 
able Don. 

He remembered, clearly enough now, that he had heard 
of Miss Moncrieflf 's elopement when he was last in Scotland. 
He had not noticed the name of the man with whom she 
had gone off. His father and mother were people of the 
old school, dignified, reserved, loyal in word and deed ; 
they had not gossiped about their friend's troubles, nor 
gloated over the recital of Molly Moncrieff's imprudence 
and her stepmother's carelessness, as many of poor Alan 
Moncrieft '3 acquaintances had done. The little that 
Charlie had heard about it had been uttered in a tone of 
grave pity and regret : and the grief that Alan Moticrieff 
had suffered was dwelt upon rather than the misconduct 
of his daughter. 

But that it was misconduct, Charlie Rutherford was as 
strongly of opinon as were his parents. That a young 
girl, tenderly nurtured, gently bred, should — without any 
great reason — run away from her father's house at the age 
of seventeen with a man who had wooed her clandestinely 
—this seemed to Captain RutherfoiJ a disgraceful act 
indeed. And yet this lovely, graceful girl, whose charm 
consisted largely in the candor of her glance, the seem- 
ing frank transparency of her whole nature — this young 
creature, whom Charlie had already chararacterised as 
the most beautiful woman that he had ever met- -she, of 
all people, had acted in this way, and he had not the 
heart to condemn her ! Of course it was her husband's 
fault. Every one knew, he thought indignantly, thoA 
Hannington was a cad, a cur — anything but a gentleman J 
No doubt he frightened the poor girl by some means into 
marrying him ! And she was sd young, so pretty, ano' 
it shov/ed such honorable feeling on her part Co tell!l 
him the story ! In short, he made out a good cllsc for 
Molly, as every other young man in his place would have 



THE LtJCk OP THE HOUSE, 



He 

)eeii 

t all. 

ineu 

tid") 

ssars 

have 

onor- 

lieard 
tland. 
n she 
of the 
deed : 



'9^ 



done, regardless of the fact that he had quite agreed with 
his mother when Lady RutJuirford said a i lonth before 
that she was afraid poor Alan Moncricff 's daughter had 
been a sore trouble to him, and a sad dis ,^race to .11 her 
family. And here he was sitting side l)y si -c vith this dis- 
grace to her family, and — if she had only not been John 
Hannington's wedded wife ! — tjuite ready to fall in love 
with her at first sight, as young people used to do in the 
days of old romance. 

I Molly, unconscious of the turn his thoughts wen taking, 
was yet not unmindful of ihe sternness that had crept into 
h/f: face ?.v, he r X with folded arms and blue eyes fixed 
i,br.ently upon :;.e floor instead of on the stage. Her mar- 
rirge had made her more susceptible to influences from 
without than she Iiad been in her early days. She felt 
that he had been startled — perhaps even shocked — by her 
story ; and for the first time she realised a little how the 
story sounded in the cars of strangers, and what aspect 
it would wear in the eyes of a duty-loving, God-fearing, 
high-minded man or woman. 

When the curtain had dropped again she did not speak 
until Captain Rutherford asked her whether she would 
take an ice or some coffee. Molly refused both hastily, 
and then summoned up courage to look at him. His face 
was not at all stern njw, she thought : his blue eyes were 
quite gentle and friendly. 

" I hope you are not — not very much shocked ? " she 
faltered out. 

Charlie Rutherford did not think that he ought to smile, 
but he could not help it. The question was so very naive. 

" Our fathers are good friends," he answered, evading 
the difficulty. " I think that we ought to be good friends 
too, Mrs. Hannington. I have been wanting to make 
your brother's acquaintance for some time." 

" Oh, how nice of you 1 " said Molly. *' And how nice 
for Bertie ! " 

Charlie laughed outright now. It was more than ever 
impossible to help it, although Mrs. Hannington looked 
surprised. 

** It will be very nice for me" he said. " I am going to 
Scotland soon, and will look him up. He is at home, I 
think?" 

" I think so, said Molly, blushing. " But — I don't 



% \ 






¥ i 1 

m\ 



loo 



77/A lUCk' OJ' THE tfOtKS/u 



know rxjirtly. \h\ Imsn*!^- thoy «t<M>'l wrllr to mo. She 
\\\\\ not kiutw by what imimlsc hIu* lt)lcl ihis fai t tn u com- 
HaiiUivo Hlmnm'i ; lnH shr »liil till it in tlu' aitlcss way in 
winrh a t liiM will mm o\nU its woes to any one who HocniH 
kindly <lis)»osoil. 

Cai^vtain Unthnronl luokoc! ^ravi\ " I am Hony/' ho 
»aid, invohn\tarily, ami tlu-n patisinl. "Von huvo written 
to ihem, ofroniRoP" ho ankiil, IVrUng himHclf oliUgcd, 
ont of shoiM pity, to take a tionlnlential lone with this im- 
pulsive, impiMidonl rhilil. 

•' Vcs, I wn)tc at onto," said Molly, with downcast 
C70S. "And I have written again. Inil papa would not 
reatl my letter. Don't yon think that it is very haril ? I 
thought that ho wouM foigivo us ditoilly ol" course I 
know that I was disobedient and naughty and all that — 
but ho won't. It makes mo very \n»happy." 

•• It mk!st'* said C'harlio, with uuilo unintentional fer- 
vor. Ho w.iH a simple, direct, aflectionato young follow, 
at\d the position of this girl, whoso father's heart was 
alienated fron\ hoj, appeared to hin» truly pitiable. Molly 
raisvHl her eyes for aw instant, looking as if she had re- 
ceived a rather new itiea. 

•• And I suppose you have not mai\y .icipuiintanccs in 
Londoi\ yet ? " ho w-ont on alter a pause. 

"Not one," said Molly. "Jack says that I shall have 
twore than 1 kiu)W what to dv> with before long, but I 
doi\'t k»\ow. I sup[)ose that he has a great many friends 
in l.ondoi\ ? '* 

" Of a sort," said Cuirlio ti) himself, but of course he 
did not say it aloud. He answereil discreetly. " I believe 
that Mr. Hatinington has a very large acqu.unlam;e. Mr. 
Veroker seeiits to bo an old friend of his. The l''s(iuharts 
are in London now. I believe. I dare say yi>u will see 
something y^^ tl»em. I,ady Agnes Veroker is a virv nice 
girl. My n\other always coupes up to town in May ; she 
will be heix! next week, and I am sure she will be very 
ghul " 

l'ort\n\ately for v'harlie's veracity, a burst of musie 
drowned the conclusion of that sentence. 

" U is very kind of you," said Molly, rather forlornly. 
" 1 should like to have somebody to talk to — of eourse — 
Jack is obliged to go out sometimes." 

•" Ves — to music halls," was th.e young man's silent coin- 
men'. He added aloud, 



TiUf wcK or rut: noirsr. 



am 



••There U ?i hrly Vnlcinin ftildrmy wlioni I think yoti 
mtist have nu'i woiu Dnnkihl." 

'• Oh, yo^, vir knew her very well." 

"She is in inwn n«»\v. Shr wns n, frirnd of thr I''s 
tjitlmrts, nn«l f think shr knows Mr. Ilmniiigtdn. Sh.i'l 
1 tell hot- whiMc yoii ,irc Mtiiyiii^? ! uftcn hco hrr." 

•• I'k'iisc <lo, said Molly CM^crly. Thrn she hcnitntc 1. 
'* I iloii'l know. Sj»o IS a liiciul ol papa's. PcrhapH slio 
will not foiniv", 

•* iShe shall n)\wv if I <an make net," said (!aj»tain 
Rutherford stoutly. And then tlic play went on. 

!l seemed to Molly fts if she innst have known ('h.irlcB 
Kulhcrfortl for many years. His name had lonf{ been 
familiar to her, and to meet him in [.ondon was like meet- 
ing a conntryman in a foreif^m land. She could not treat 
him like a stranger. 

He drovo hack 'o the hotel with her between eleven 
and twelve. partin{f from her at the door with a sensaticm 
ol entire dcvolitm whiih woiild greatly have astonished 
simple niinded Molly, could she hut have known it. Ffer 
husl)and had ncU come in, and she did not wait for him. 
She was tired and went at (mce to bed, where she sl.*pl 
so so\mdly that she was not alarmed by the fact that Jark 
did not return until six o'clock in the morning, when he 
stumbled inlo his dressing room and threw himself down 
on a couch to sleep until noon. She found him there 
when she was dressed at nine o'clock, and, like a wise 
little woman, forbore to disturb him. 

He a| oeared in the sitting-room at one o'<:lock, ordered 
Itrandy and soda, ;ind comi)lained of a headache, lie 
certainly looked ill, his face was lividly |)ale, and he had 
black marks under his eyes. Molly hastened to wait 
upon him but got snubbed for her |»ains. Me lay down 
on a sola, turned his back to her, and told her roughly to 
iu)ld her tongue. 

After ten minutes' silence, however, he addressed her 
again. 

** Molly, when (h'd you write to your father ?" 

" Last week, jack, dcir." 

" And he sent !)a(k your letter miopened ? " 

•' Ves, j.ick." 

" Conf«mnd him !— Molly 1 " 

♦' Yes, Jack, dear ? " 



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ji 

•< 



M 
(I 

m 



m 



^*i3 I 

1 



ioi 



77//? rrcA' O/' Till' tlOtrsK 












\ 



"Oprn tlmt poc kel Ixuik niul Ifikc oiit the key that 
you'll fiml inside, 'i'hnrs il. Now go and unlock my 
dressing l)«)x and sec how niu( h money you can find. I 
want lo know. Hring it all lo me." 

Molly wondeiiiigly di<l hei lord's behests. " I've found 
RUeh a lot," she said, when she returned. ** Wliat do you 
keep il there lor, jack? it might get stolen. There are 
one Innulred and twrnty poimds in notes, and fifteen 
pounds, seventeen shillings and four penee in .silver and 
copper." 

"Is that til/f' said llannington, Mankly. 

" Istt't it enough? Ves, that is all, T am sure." 

••A niee look t)ut lor us," muttered her Inishand, turning 
his face 'away. " That's all we have got in the world, you 
may be pleased to knt)w ; and thanks to your father's 
infernal obstinac y, thai is all we seem likely to get until 
you are twenty one." 

The color fa<!ed from Afolly's i hecks at the tone of his 
voice rather than on at ( Dunt of the wtuds he uttered. She 
fell vaguely afraid and dismayed. 

" 1 tlu)ught you — you had - plenty," she faltered. 

" Plenty ! It depends on what you (all plenty ! I had 
more than this last night, certainly : I was cheated out of 
a lot of money -tool that 1 was I Look here, Molly, I 
shall bo ruined — if I am not ruined already — unless I can 
get somothin!; out of that precious father of yours. You 
won't have bread and butter to eat before very long, if 
something iloes not turn up. I shall have to go to the 
Continei\l, and you back to your fiilher : that is what wi'l 
happen lo us." 

**Oh, Jack, if you were ever so poor. T should never 
desert you ! " « ried Molly, who was in tears by this time. 

" l.ikc Atrs. Micawber," said Jj^^'k, drily. ** But I am 
afraid that I shouKl have to desert you, my dear — unless 
you can mend mailers for me." 

" How, Jack } I will do anything that I can." 

•* Sit down and write a moving appeal to your father, 
then. Say anything you like ; promise anything you like, 
but get hin\ lo give an income." 

" Ask him for money ? Oh, that is impossible," said 
Molly, suddenly lUishing scarlet, and drawmg herself up. 

*' fust now you said you would do anything for me, and 
yet you hang back the moment a disagreable task is sug- 



rill': i.trcKoF run iious/c. 



J 03 



gcslcd to you," said Mnnnington. " I a<:knowlc(1f^c that 
it is (lesagrecablc : (here are many disaj^rcrablc things in 
this world, unforttinntcly ; btit they have to l»c faced. 
However, I shall now know how much faith to place in 
yfuir professions." 

He ttirnrd his eyes angrily to the wall, and kept silence. 
He knew very well the way iti whi<h his demeanor wmdd 
afTect poor Molly's feelings. She also was silent for a few 
minutes, hut then she hurst out passionnlely — 

"You ought not to say that I You ktiow that I |>rofess 
nothing that I do not feel. I have yiven ii[) a gr( at deal 
to show my love for you : I have given up my home and 
my friends. It is very hard to ask for money when all I 
want is my father's forgiveness. 

** You have never seemed to think much abotit your 
father's forgiveness before," said her husband with a sneer. 

" I know that I did not, 1 have begun to think about 
it lately. T wish — T wish " 

" Perhaps you wish that you had ncK married me," said 
Hannington, sarcastically. " Does your repentance extend 
so far?" 

" Oh, Jack, Jnck I " She flew to him at once, and knelt 
beside him, showering kisses on the hand that was within 
her reach — he would not let her kiss his face. " How can 
1 repent it when I love you ? You are my own dear hus- 
band — my love — my darli ig ! 1 cannot repent that I came 
away with you ! " 

" That's all very fine, Molly, but heroics and hysterics 
won't give us bread and cheese. Are you or are you not 
going to manifest your love for me in a practical manner ? 
If you care for me half as much as you say you do, you 
won't scruple to write a little note to your father on my 
behalf. If you won't do that small thing for mc — well I 
shall know what to believe and what to expect. " 

" But it does not seem a small thing to me, Jack ; it 
seems very large," cried Molly, piteously. " It seems a 
dreadful thing to me." 

"And you refuse to do this — this large and dreadful 
thing for me ? " He turned towards her and looked at 
her with those dark, handsome eyes of his, which had first 
won Molly's heart. Won't you try to help me, Molly ? " 
he said subduing his voice to a coaxing tone. And Molly 
burst into tears and promised that she would ; and he, as 



■'i; 




V 



% 
K 




::l 



M4 



rnfi rrcK or rnn nofsK, 






I 






ft tTH'rtVil. |Mit \\\<^ nun rotnul brr ninl kissed her, rnlUng 
het- liy rtll soH« (»f pet tintm's, j»n»t vowing thni «He never 
«hnnld repent tlinf she hit«l bernine his wire. Antl in this 
he wns in imrt situere find in part doininrtteil l»y Imser 
motives. He w.inted t») keep Nf «»lly in whnt he rrtllefl '• n 
tff>od h\nn«n,'' nnd he nns jilso fund of her, jind ndmired 
Tier !>ennty very i"e»rdirtlly. 

So rtt Irtst Molly snt down to the writitm tnhle nnd indited 
ninnher letter to her frtther. John ditl not sngRest ony 
setuenees, os he h.vtl done onrr lu'fore with somewhat 
disrtstnms elTeit ; dotihtless he knew hy this time thnt 
Mt)lly's style nnil his <)wn were wide ns the poles rtsnndcr. 
And Molly's letter, whieh she dtttif\tlly brottcht to him, 
Wrts, he nssnnul her p.vtronisingly, n very rreditnble efHi 
simi. Indeed, it wns n pnthetie Mnd perfertly sineere 
litde letter, whii-h deserve<! ii better fntc ihnn the one 
whieh nitimntely hefel it. 

She ei\eh>sed it in n note to Hertie. begging her brother 
to ])l.iee il in their futher's hunds. In totir drtys nn answer 
was i-eeeivied bnt not from W\, Motn rieflf or tierlie ; il 
was written by Kalpli Kingseott. 

" Afv dear Molly," wrote her tmele, " yonrfdther wishes 
me to say that he e.mnot e<nn eive why yon should write 
begging letters <y/fr<t/fy. \o\\ must s\!t-e!y have snffieient 
for yonr pn^sent needs, ronsulering the eir»iimstanccs 
under whieh >imi WW his house. *' 

" What ean he mean ? " said Molly, when she read this 
letter rather ti-emblingly aloud to her husband. 

Hannington shook his head. 

"Can't imagine, I am sure. As T took nothing out of 
his house but yourself, my dear, there docs not seem much 
|H>int in his observation, (io on." 

Molly <x>ntinued to read. 

*' He is of opinion that you have already received suffi- 
cient, and that he ought not to be called upon for more." 

'* More ! " cried Hannington, fiercely ; " what docs that 
mean ? " 

** He therefore requests that no more communications 
may be addressed to him or to any member of his family... 
Thus far, my dear Molly, 1 have written at his dictation, 
and T can now add a few wo» ds of my owmi. In robbing 
him of yourself, you see, your father looks upon poor Jack 
as a mere thief, and refuses to increase his wealth by gifts 



TUB LUCK OP TitE 110 VSR, 



^ 



nf filthy lucre, wliicit in iinfortunrtte f(ir Jn<k, \ djiresay, »« 
lit' kudws tin* worth of filthy Iik re as well as ww^ one with 
whom I was t ver a( »|uaiiite(l. Yotir father is somewhat 
•iiinoyed also at the way in whirh yoiir letter was for( ed 
iipoii his notire ; Mrs. Vldmrieff, to whom Uertie ronfiiled 
it, having phu ed it open ii)Kin his desk. The matter ha» 
become a sore point with him altogether, more particularly 
as the fact of your husband's previous engagement to Mrs. 
MoneriefT ■' 

Here Molly brtike off. " Your engagement to Mr», 
Monrrieffl " she said, in an incredulous t(ine. 

" I think I (ild yoti about it," he answered, trying to 
speak carelessly. •' Mrs. Moncrieff, when she was Stella 
Kaeburn, was " 

" In love with you ! I know that ; Uncle Ralph told 
nie so, and you a< knowledged it," said Molly, (|uickly. 
•• But an engagement ! " 

•' Well, wliy not? It was roken off, my dear child, if 
ever there was one, lon^ before I knew you." 

" Ves, yes, of course it was, but you never said that you 
— that you -^ 

•' That I — what f Don't stammer and whine, for mercy's 
sake. What do you mean ? " 

" You must have asked her— you must have paid atten- 
tion to her — or she would not have shown that she liked 
you I You could not be engaged to her without having 
made love to her 1 " Molly broke out jealously. Her breast 
was heaving ; her dilated eyes gleamed through a mist of 
tears. 

•' Naturally," said her husband, coolly. He had by this 
time lost his temper. •* I never implied that Stella Rae- 
burn gave me her affection wiuiout my asking for it, did 
I ? Of course I made love to her ; what else do you ex- 
pect to hear?" 

"You loved her first?" cried Molly. Her face had 
grown pale, and her hands clenched themselves at her 
side. There was something tragic in her look. 

Hannington laughed scornfully. " Loved her ? " he re- 
echoed. *' I have only loved one woman in my life — and 
that was not Stella Raeburn." 

•• Oh, Jack, Jack I say that you loved me /" cried Molly* 
stretching out her arms to him, beseechingly. He looked 
at her and did not answer. ' < You have loved one woman.'' ^ 



.. m 



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::. f ii 


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io<S 



THE J.UCK OF THE HOUSE. 



she went on, fearfully, ** don't you mean f«^, Jack? You 
have always said that you loved me ; and I — I am your 
wife." 

" Worse luck for me," growled Hannington, savagely. 
He said it between his teeth, not exactly meaning her to 
hear ; but when he saw from her stricken look and the 
shrinking movement of her whole body that she had 
heard, he did not attempt to mend matters. He cast a 
guilty glance at her, shrugged his shoulders, and then went 
straight out of the room. He had come to the conclusion 
that it was useless to ** humbug " Molly any longer. The 
sooner she found out that he did not care for her more 
than husbands usually care for their wives — such was the 
cynical way in which he put it to himself — the better for her 
— the better for them both. 



Sheh 
to fal 
failed 
intelU 
capab 
emoti 

She 
have 
first, 
warm 
the < 
hurt 
action 
bereft 

Wh 
seen 



CHAPTER XXIX. 



STELLA RAEBURN'S LETTERS. 

Molly sank into a chair when her husband left her, and 
sat like a stone, cold, motionless, and indifferent to all 
surroundings. It seemed to her that life was at an end, 
that her happiness was entirely destroyed John Han- 
nington, for whom she had sacrificed so much, had never 
loved her after all — she could not but be sure of that. It 
was some other woman whom he loved ; perhaps Stella, 
perhaps some one else. And what was left to Molly for 
her share of this world's good ? She had given up her 
home, her father, brother, friends ; she had turned from 
wealth to poverty — a small matter when love was present, 
perhaps, but not without its importance — she had even 
lowered her own fair reputation — and for what ? For the 
sake of a man who did not love her. But why had he 
married her ? That was poor Molly's question ; and the 
answer did not make itself clear for some little time. " He 
must have loved me a little, or he would not have married 
me," she said, childishly, thereby revealing the depths of 
her ignorance of man's nature. But Molly, in spite of her 
beauty, of her high physical development, of her strong 
will and passionate nature, was as yet only a child in soul. 



THE LUCK OE THE tioVSE, 



ioj 



She had no mental resources, no real strength of character 
to fall back upon when natural hopes of love and joy had 
failed her. Her mind might grow, and latent powers of 
intellect and conscience awaken ; but at present she was 
capable of but little feeling, and entirely governed by her 
emotions. 

She sat still for some time. All her strength seemed to 
have left her. At last the tears began to flow — slowly at 
first, then faster ; and with the tears came a rush of 
warmer feeling — of resentment, jealousy, anger, instead of 
the coldness of despair. She cried her heart out like a 
hurt child, before she bethought h''rself of any plan of 
action or any arrangement for the future, now that she was 
bereft of her husband's love. 

When she was a little calmer, she noticed that she had 
seen her uncle's letter drop t© the floor, where it lay 
crumpled and half unread. She brought herself at last to 
make the effort of picking it up ; and when she had 
smoothed it out, she sat down listlessly to read the last 
page. It was a dangerous thing to do at that moment ; 
for she was in a keenly susceptible state, and Ralph King- 
scott's suggestions were apt to fall upon susceptible minds 
like lighted matches upon tow. 

**The matter has become a sore point with him alto- 
gether, more particularly as the fact of your husband's pre- 
vious engagement to Mrs. Moncrieff " — Molly now read on 
with interest — " has but lately been made known to him. 
He is anxious and uneasy concerning some letters that 
Mrs. Moncrieff once wrote to Jack. If you want to do us 
a service, my dear, you had better get Jack to send them 
back. Your father will know no peace until they are de- 
stroyed, for he cannot bear the thought of their existence. 
He will be much more likely to forgive your husband if he 
gets those letters away from him. But perhaps they are 
destroyed already. Could you not ascertain this, and let 
me know ? You can write to me as much as you please. 
I still hope to soften your father's heart towards you. 
Your affectionate uncle, 

"Ralph Kingscott." 

Kingscott had probably calculated upon the effect that 
his letter was likely to produce, and had worded it so that 
it should have a perfectly innocent and friendly sound* 



m 
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THE LVCk OF tffE kOUi^, 



He had no reason for wishing to sow dissension between 
Mr. and Mrs. Hannington, but he wanted to keep Molly 
away from home, he wanted to separate Alan and Stella, 
and he particularly wanted to retam his own powerful posi- 
tion. To set Molly searching for Stella's letters, and to 
Set them into his own hands, would be to secure two very 
esirable results. 

Molly rose up from the reading of that letter with her 
brain on fire. Jack had letters from Stella Raebum — 
now Stella Moncrieff, her father's wife — and would not give 
them up ? What did that mean but that he still, in spite 
of his deilial, loved Stella and cherished her memory. 
Molly set her teeth and pressed her hands closely together 
as she considered this possibility. And then there came 
an overwhelming desire to see for herself the letters of 
which her uncle spoke, ^e had no thought of making 
use of them for her own or Kingscott's ends ; she only 
wanted passionately to see them. Did her husband keep 
them still ? If so, had she not a right to find them and 
read them, as if they were her own ? 

Poor Molly was not of a bad disposition ; she would 
nev*»r develop into a wicked woman ; but she was utterly 
untrained and uncontrolled. Stella's influence had been 
exerted for too short a time to retain its power over her ; 
her father's authority had been authority simply, and had 
not made her reflect about questions of right and wrong. 
She was a spoilt, passionate child — that was all ; but she 
was in a position where the indulgence of her impulses were 
likely to have disastrous results for other people. 

It was with a face in which the hot color burned like 
two red flags of defiance, with cold and shaking hands, and 
limbs that trembled under her, that she left the snug little 
private sittingroom at last, and made her way into Han- 
nington's dressingroom. Here she looked round hope- 
lessly. Where should she begin to search ? He was not 
likely to leave his private papers in any place where she 
could find them easily. They were probably in that brass- 
bound desk of his, or in the despatch-box — both safely 
Ipcked and put away in a big trunk. And the keys would 
probably be in his pocket. Molly could not imagine her- 
self picking a lock, although the moral guilt of doing so 
might not be greater than that of reading another woman's 
letters to her nusband. She sighed and almost gave up 
her scheme in that moment of discouragement. 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



^ 



But what did she see upon the dressing-table, as if on 

f)urpose to tempt her to do amiss ? Her husband's keys 
ay there in a little heap : some half-dozen tiny glittering 
things on a steel ring which he generally carried in his 
pocket, and seldom indeed forgot. John Hannington was 
rather a careful man about small matters : it was rare 
indeed for him to leave things lying about. Molly hesitated 
for a moment only, and then seized upon the keys. Her 
heart beat violently as she opened the trunk and took out 
the despatch-box : her hands trembled so that she could 
scarcely turn the key. If her husband came in while she 
was so engaged, she guessed that his wrath would be some- 
thing ternble. But she was too eager and excited to be 
timid. Until she had found what she wanted, or given 
up the search in despair, the reaction was not likely to 
set in. 

In the despatch-box she found many bundles of letters 
and papers, for the most part neatly tied up and docketed 
in a severely methodical manner. She tossed them over 
with hot, trembling fingers : she saw none in the hand- 
writing that she had learnt to know so well when Stella 
was her governess. She almost relinquished the task in 
despair. Then, at the very bottom of the box, her e^es fell 
on two slim papers tied together with a bit of black 
ribbon : one was black-edged, both were covered with the 
fine and pretty characters that betokened Stella's hand. 
Molly drew them out. She had found what she wanted, 
then, at last ! 

, Two : were there only two? She turned over the other 
papers, but could find no more. She looked into the desk, 
into the other boxes and the drawers, but her search was 
unsuccessful. At last she reluctantly turned the keys, and, 
resolving to put back the letters when she had read them, 
she crept into her own room and seated herself at her 
dressing-table to examine them. 

Only one seemed to be of any length or importance. 
The first was the letter written by Stella soon after her 
father's death, begging John Hannington to come to her. 
The next — ah, this was what froze Molly's heart as she 
read it — the next was that outpouring of girlish tenderness 
which Hannington had found so embarrassing, so difficult 
to answer. Not knowing exactly how he had answered it, 
not knowing what had preceded it, but imagining all sorts 



M 



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itv 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



• .^ <v 



of vows '\\m\ jiroti'stnlions niul (.aressca on his pari, Molly 
Worked herself iin to a state of indignation and fury, in 
which it seemed as thougli every softer feeling had 
deserted her. 

"And he could ask nic to he his wife after all this !" 
she exclamed to herself " And .v/^^ coidd ( onie among us 
with her soft looks and ])retty ways and pretend that she 
had never cared for any man before ! J know she pretend 
ed that, for I heard old Miss Jacky talking to paj)a one 
day, and solemnly assuring him that dear Stella had never 
cared for anybody in her life — except himself! She was 
false — false all round. 1 may have deceived papa for a 
time," thought Molly, beginning to cry at the remem- 
brance, "but I never, never deceived him as much as 
Stella Raeburn did when she consented to be his wife. 
And I was deceived too. Deceived ';y her, deceived by 
Jack I Oh, what can I do to ))unish them 1 They deserve 
punishment ! they deserve it I " 

She sobbed tempestuously for a time, her tears fiilling 
on the letters as Stella's had fallen when she wrote them 
those years before. When her sobs at last ceased she had 
grown quieter and gentler in feeling : she had come to the 
point of excusing her husband even if she could not for- 
give Stella. Towards Stella, indeed, her thoughts were 
of unmixed bitterness. Odd contradiction of feeling as it 
may seem to be, she was angry for her father's sake as well 
as for her own. He ought to have known — and she was 
sure that he had not been told before his marriage even if 
he had heard the truth later. The remembrance of her 
uncle's letter came back to her, and brought a strange 
gleam into her eyes. " No wonder they want to get these 
letters back ! Has Jack ever shown them to any one, I 
wonder? He shall not have the chance. I shall send 
them to Un le Ralph : he says that papa wants them, and 
I am sure papa has a riglit Ho them. We will see what 
Madam Stella will say to that ! And if Jack dislikes it — 
so much the better : thay had no business not to tell me ! " 

She rose from her seat and began to look for writing 
materials. She i)ut Stella's letters inside an envelope, and 
addressed it to her uncle at Torresmuir. 

" He mav do what he likes with thorn," she said, with a 
firm setting of her lips. " It is time they were destroyed." 

Without waiting for further reflection, she hastily donned 



I )' 



•■*.% 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



All 



Iier hat and ran downstairs with the letter in her hand. 
There was a pillar-post not far from the hotel, and she felt 
as if the letter would be safer if she posted it with her own 
hands instead of giving it to a servant. 

She had never been alone in a LontUm street before, 
and she had a sense of being very adventtirons as she 
dropped her letter through the slit in the box. And when 
it was gone, a wild fenr of (onse(Hienres suddenly attadced 
her; and she would have given anything to recall the 
deed. She stood looking at the scarlet pillar, cpiite 
regardless of the fact that she was attracting the attention 
of the passers-by. At that moment a postman appeared 
upon the scene, and, depositing his bag on the groimd, 
unlocked the box and began to clear it of letters. Molly 
gave a sort of gasp of relief ; her experiences of |)ostmen 
were based only on the routine at Torresmuir and other 
country places, where postmen were personally known to 
all the country district, and were somewhat amenable to 
private considerations. 

" Oh, i)ostman," she said, " I — I've j)ut a letter in by 
mistake : can you give it me out again ? " 

The postman was inclined to deem this a foolish joke 
and was on the point of returning a surly answer, until he 
sav/ Molly's pretty troubled face and dainty clothes, Then 
he smiled, shook his head, and answered, 

" Very sorry. Miss. Couldn't do that." 

*' But I will show you the letter ! " said Molly, piteously. 
" I'll give you half-a-crown for it, if you'll let me take it 
out." 

" No use, Miss. Couldn't do it at any price," said the 
postman. " And if you'll excuse me, Miss, I'm in a 
hurry." 

" But, postman— 

"Can I do anyting for you, Mrs. Hannington?" said 
a voice behind her. And turning with a start, Molly 
found herself face to face with Captain Rutherford, whose 
kindly blue eyes and friendly smile gave her a sensation 
of unwonted peace and confidence. 

"Oh, I am so glad itis>'<7«/" she exclaimed, impul- 
sively. " I thought it was " 

Could she have been going to say " her husband ? " The 
quick, scared look over his shoulder, the sudden hot blush, 
filled Charlie Rutherford's heart with sorrow. 



i» 



\- ii 






•11 



r///r r.rcK or rnr. hovsr. 



" t hflve put rt letter in lierp and 1 want It out ngain," 
ihr went on. " CriwV ! get it ont ? " 

" I'm afrnid not," Hftid C'rtptnin Uuthnfnrd. snv'ing at llu> 
proposal. " Was it very importnnt ? " 

J^y this time the pnstninn hn«i shoiiMorrd his bng ntui 
tramped away again, tiot without a sniiN' at thr futility oi 
the voung lady's reqiiest. 

Nlollv, finding that he hml gone, drew a long breath and 
glaticed timidly at her ronipanion. 

" 1 thought that he would have given me my own letter 
Imek," she said, pinititively. 

" A post-hox is the very mouth of Fate," said Tharlic 
Kutherfonl, shaking his head. " What is done cannot be 
undone, I am aft aid." 

" I'm afraid not," said Molly, in a low voice. 

" Arc vou gt)ing anywhere else? are you shopping, nmv 
lask?" 

•' No, I came nut only to post my loiter." 

•• May I walk bark with you ? " 

"Oh," said Molly, impulsively, "J shall be so glad if 
you do." 

She was hardly aware of the traces that tears and a 
mental strtiggle had left upon her farr. Her eyelids were 
reddened: ner checks were wr.vfuUy pale, and her droop 
ing lips twitched from time to time as if she cotild hardly 
restrain herself from tears, (\iptain Rutherford, however, 
saw it all, and he noted her silence, her evidei.t depression. 
AS they walked the few yards distance betweei\ the pillii 
and the hotel. Wlien they reached the door, he paused, 
lifting his hat as if to take his leave. Whereupon Molly 
said, quite simply, 

" Won't you con\e '\\\ ? '* 

She WAS so utterly friendless that C'harlie's appearance 
put fresh heart into her, and made her rein tant to see 
him depart. And, after a motncnt's hesitation, but with a 
look of trouble dawning in his cle.u- blue eyes, Charlie 
Rutherford followed her to her little sitting room. 

•• T hope yoii were not tired after your dissii)ation of »he 
other night," he ventured to say. 

"Oh no, not at ail. \ don't think (hat 1 ever enjoved 
anything so much in my life : I shall ticvct- enjoy anything 
so m\ic.h again -never !" crieii Molly, with a burst of 
childish passsion, which took her hearer by surprise, 



TltR IMCfC Off ft fit ftov^n. 



alj 



' I sliottUl think tlmt yon will enjoy a great many things 
Hfiid kiitherford, kinrlly. 

And I (lon'l deserve to 
J know I vexed my father very 



nun !i more," 

"Oh no, I siiiill not. 



cnjov anything. . . 

iiHich, btit I never tlionglit that he would not forgive 
tne. . . . It is that which is trembling me today." 
Molly put her handkerchief to her eyes and nastily dashed 
iiway ji gatherifjg tear. 

" Ycni have heard from him again ? " 

" 1 have hud a message." Molly's chin (juivered as she 
spoke. " He does nut want to see me or hear of me 
iigain." 

" I am very sorry. But he will yield — in a little time 
he will change his mind," said Charlie, with eager unrei- 
sonahleness. " Me cannot always be so hard." 

" Oh, 1 don't know," said Molly, looking away. " He 
was always rather stern to us. And I hardlv thought that 
I had done wrimg until — until — you looked so grave anu 
surprised about it the other night. Since then I have 
felt— differently, somehow." 

If she had been the most accomplished coquette in the 
whole of Christendom she could not have chosen words 
more likely to inflame young Rutherford's ardor in her 
cause. 

" Can I do anything for you ? Should I ask my father 
to talk to Mr. Moncrieff? 'J'hey are great friends, you 
know." 

•♦ I'm afraid it would be of no use." 

" I can't bear to see you in trouble," said Charlie, with 
a little break in his man^y voice. 

Molly I oked surprised. " It's very kind of you/' she 
said. Then, with a sudden effort at sincerity : " It isn't 
u\\\y that m.ikes me miserable. I had— other reasons." 
She stopped short, and colored over cheek and brow. 

*' If I can help you in any way, I shall always be ready," 
said (Captain Rutherford, in low, moved tones. 

Molly had no time to reply, for at that very moment the 
door was opened and John Hannington walked in. He 
cast a very sharp glance at Molly's flushed face and then 
at Rutherford, but he greeted the latter with his usual 
affectation of semi-jocose frankness, and did not seem in 
any way astonished by his presence. Indeed, when Ruth- 
erford declared that he must go, Hannington invited him 



f 



a<4 



THB Luck OF ThE HOUSE, 



very cordially to dinner on the following evening, and 
would take no refusal. When the young man was gone, 
he turned bqjck to his wife, who was sitting with her face 
averted from him, and touched' her lightly on the cheek. 
" Come, Molly," he said, good-humoredly, " don't sulk. 
I said more than I meant. There is no need for you to 
look so tragic." 

" Oh, Jack," she said, the tears beginning to stream over 
her white cheeks again, " do you mean — do you really — 
love me — after all? " 

" Of course I do, as much as husbands generally love 
their wives, at any rate. I can't get up romantic sentiment, 
Molly, and I don't mean to. We may as well jog along as 
well as we can." 

He drew her towards him and kissed her. She neither 
looked up nor returned his kiss : a terrible feeling of guilt, 
anger, disgust, had taken possession of her. And she 
dared not tell him that she had purloined Stella's letters 
and sent them to Ralph Kingscott, nor ask him whether 
it was herself who was " the only woman that he had ever 
loved." 



CHAPTER XXX. 



' A CRISIS. 

/ 

Meanwhlle at Torresmuir life seemed to have resumed 
Its usual course. By the time the East winds had ceased and 
the June flowers begun to blow, Ralph Kingsccct was nearly 
well, and could attend to his duties on the estate. Bertie 
"vas sent to a tutor ; and Stella tried to take up the threads 
of her life — although they had snapped of late in so many 
directions that she felt as if its warp and woof were fatally 
strained asunder. And in some respects he tried in vain. 

There was a certain day in spring that lived long in her 
remembrance. It was before Bertie went away — before 
Ralph Kingscott had returned to active life. It was short- 
ly after a letter had been received from Molly, asking once 
more for her father's forgiveness : a letter which, as we 
already know, had been answered by Ralph Kingscott, 
who took upon himself to heighten considerably the effect 
of Alan Moncrieff 's displeasure in the message that he gave. 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



a>S 



Alan's own words had not been nearly as harsh as they 
were represented, and he had never meant to refuse defi- 
nitely to help his daughter in her need. But his words of 
inquiry as to the reason of her distress for money were 
capable of being twisted a good many ways ; and it was 
Ralph's interest to divide the father and daughter as much 
and as long as possible. 

After the despatch of Ralph's letter, Mr. Moncrieff was 
noticeably restless and uneasy. He did not say to any 
one that he wanted to hear again from Molly, but Stella 
surmised that he was anxious on that account. He had 
shown considerable anger when she had placed Molly's 
letter before him, but she knew that he had made a half 
apology to her afterwards for his irritability. And then 
on a certain May morning, Molly's answer came. 

The post-bag was brought to Mr. Moncrieff about noon. 
He was in the porch of the house when it arrived — talking 
to Bertie about fishing-tackle, and engaged with the lad i^^ 
an examination of the fly-book. Stella had stepped inw 
the porch for a moment also, to enjoy the clear, bright 
sunlight and the exquisite view of purple distances, wind- 
ing silver streams, and budding green foliage. She was 
glad to see her husband and his son together — glad to hear 
Bertie's laugh — clearer and franker than it used to be — 
once more, and to note that Alan's tone was cheerier than 
it had sounded for many a day. He gave her a smile of 
greeting as she approached. Something warm and bright 
seemed to have come into his face. He had been fighting 
a hard battle with himself ever since the news of Molly's 
elopement had reached him ; and now a crisis had been 
reached, and he honestly believed that he had won the 
victory. He could afford to smile in his old kindly fashion 
when he had made up his mind to accept the truth of his 
daughter's penitence, and forgive her for the wrong done 
to himself. 

The letter-bag was brought to him by the butler, and 
Stella handed him the key. She saw that his hand trembled 
a little as he put it into the lock. 

There were half a dozen letters for himself: none for 
Stella, three for the servants, one for Bertie, one for Ralph 
Kingscott. It was over this letter that Alan Hngered for 
a moment. He handed the bag back to the servant with 
the letters for cook and housemaids, gave Bertie his own, 



M 
* 



I fM 



:l 



*• ,;;• 



tie 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



put the envelope for Ralph face downwards on the window- 
sill, and began to open and read his own letters. But 
Stella's heart gave a sudden leap, for she had seen the hand- 
writing on the letter adressed to Mr. Kingscott. It was 
another communication from Molly — perhaps more satis- 
factory than the last. 

In five minutes Alan stuffed his own papers into his 
pockets, and said, rather abruptly — 

" I'll take Ralph his letter.*^ 

Then he strode into the house and went towards the 
Tower, where he knew that at that moment Ralph was 
engaged. 

Stella went to the drawing-room, hoping that he would 
come to her and give her news of Molly. But an hour or 
two passed by, and she saw nothing of him. The luncheon- 
bell rang — but he did not come to luncheon. Ralph came, 
with a curiously cold smile lurking about the corners of 
his lips, as if he knew something that he did not choose 
to tell; but Stella would not question him. Alan had 
gone out, he said incidentally in the course of the meal, 
and would not ^e back till dinner-time — if then. Stella 
silently surmised that there had been bad news in that 
letter from poor Molly. 

She did not see her husband again until the dinner- 
hour ; and then she felt rather than saw that a change of 
some kind had passed over him. He was unusually pale, 
very silent, and somewhat restrained in manner ; he 
avoided meeting Stella's eye, or entering into conversation 
with her ; and shortly after dinner went away to his study 
and did not re-appear in the drawing-room. 

Stella's anxiety overleaped all bounds. She would not 
ask Ralph Kingscott for news of Molly, but she surely 
might ask Alan. He could not be angry with her for 
that. Molly perhaps was ill or in trouble. Stella did not 
think that John Hannington was likely to prove a very 
loving husband. At the risk of being thought trouble- 
some and intrusive, she decided upon going to her hus- 
band to inquire. 

It was after ten o'clock when she knocked at the study 
door. She heard Alan's footsteps as he paced up and 
down the room. The sound stopped : she heard him walk 
to the door and unlock it. Then he said "Come in." 

But when she presented herself in the door-way, she 



1 I, ; 



TttE LVCK of TitE tiOVSE. 



%\t 



was certain that some trace of surprise was visible on his 
gra''*, pale face. He did not, however, show it in words : 
he hasfined at once, with even more than his usual 
courtesy, to close the door for her, to set her a chair, and 
to ask — formally enough — if there were anything that he 
could do for her ? 

Stella sat down. The room was very dark, for the fire 
sent out only a dull, red glow, and the lighted lamp on the 
writing-table was covered with a green shade. Such 
light as there was fell full upon Stella's face, but Alan — 
moving backwards and forwards beside the table as he 
spoke to her — kept his countenance in shadov/. 

" Can I do anything for you ? " he asked, after a mo- 
ment's pause. 

" Oh, Alan," the young wife broke out earnestly, " I 
am so afraid that you have had bad news to-day ! " 

" Bad news ? " he repeated, mechanically ; and then he 
stopped short, laying one hand on the table at his side. 
" Yes," he added, in a lower tone, " yes — I have had bad 
news." 

" About Molly ? " she breathed — almost afraid to speak 
aloud. " From Molly herself? — I saw her writing " 

" It was nothing," said Alan, resuming his slow walk 
without glancing at her face. " Nothing, I mean, that 
you would care to hear. It would be no pleasure to you." 

" Of course, no trouble of Molly's would give me any 
pleasure to "^ hear of," said Stella, almost, indignantly. 

"But I might be able to help — to sympathise— if you 
were grieved about it, I should be grieved too " 

She had difficulty in uttering even these few and dis- 
connected words. His silence, his bowed head and 
shoulders, gave her a strange sensation of fear. 

" Is there nothing for me to hear ? " she said at last, 
almost desperately. 

Mcncrieff stopped short again, placed both hands on 
the table, and leaning forward a little, looked at her 
steadily. 

" Why," he said deliberately, " should you be so anx- 
ious about the matter ? " 

" Because I see that you are anxious, Alan, and I want, 
if possible, to help you." 

" My anxiety is so important to you ? " — Was there a 
slight sneer in the tone of his voice ? 



) f 



l^i 



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rrifi: ttrk t)p rrrt' rnn*sft. 



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\S\v7 \S\\, \\;\\\, ilo sm \\s\)i\'\ 111. I y'*** •'♦♦? Mtv lii!M|»!Hi«ir 

t^WM to \\\v la-.ul. " Ai;«n, AImh. uli!\l «iHi vMi) nw-MliP" 
l^Hii \rfi!\hil^^g lU'V Willi Ihr ?,',\\\\v. «<l(':nir:1«;l Innlt. " |ll;)l 



1)11^ ^:^^^1|^^W"11l \y\'^ \'.\\\vi\ \ loM \{\\\ qnMli- 



l«!l< 

I ;lql<r< 
^^y^ tt> m.'^vv'v \\\v \\\ oulrl tn lu'l|» WW tli;il. f fhl»»l<, Wii-^ 



\\\\^ \\\\^\\\S\\^ ^\U\s^S'^X^'^ WW \\S stM'!lt< WW\t- Hrrlv. I fl^k* •! 
V^y^ tt> m-'^vvy iy\r il\ \Wi\v\ tn lu'l|» H\<> ♦li;il. I fhlfik, wa 

\\\V \V;U i\\ \vhii.h 1 tnn il ? :1 y\:\\W, \svS\\',\\'\^ vWW ft hHII.-ll 
SV!\\, \sW\. \S\W \k\\\\\\ \ys\\ illil Hnl ntM'Ut to»c«^rMl 

''No." SU>1l;l's A\\ \\\S''^ ini<^UiMril 1)1 ♦ItUllh ?<llOW, loi 

i^\\e vmiUl n«^< sjH':iV:i \\{W\\. \wi\ Aljth nml nti 

*• Vo\y l^r^Ve \\\sWk' ysw\ WA ; v«^H /*,trr llflprtl nic i»( 
\mw\ 1v.«;\KMts, rt?^ ymi jnrMlli'JrJ lo tlh t^Mt — our* tlllMy 

^ i^ii^ -sA Kxs\ : \\\s\ y»\\\) Uuo t «li»l imt tliltiV W Ms to 
.'\«;V toi v<^\U l<NVr Inn \\)S \\\\\\\ :1M(I nnitlin ; ftiul thr-^t . 
i sir.iU-rly \\\\\\V, Slrll;^. ihrtt \oM IviVr qjinwh.'* 

\\\% VxMrc Wjl-^ t^rtllli:\vlv grlMU". JlMtl V^t Vrvy rnld 
StrUrt'5 1:Ut I^W.hnl rVimsiMt. I^IU she R|Mikc »Mlt bv.ivrlv. 

"t t\lS mn kl^<>NV how t h:Ur j-lilLMl ill tllt'Se,'* slip ««flltl. 

*'r\vr^^t tsy »U^I,>yiwg to ^rll v^ni oMho rntniiplrnirMt lli.n 
^ \\t\>S i^^sru^NTivi^ hrtWocW Aloily :\n(i Mv. tlinitiinpion 
rttNt^ lh;n W-;1; :111 rWOV Ol iiwlgmrlil. not |n»>rrrtling ItnMl 

\inmuht\ih\r<^«?. \\v\ thrn ihnr w;i?« iwy t)wn cng:'*irnt»'Mt 
- \1'm\ r.iW i\iU il .in rngajjctwriu to Mv. ll:iotiitmttn», 
WfxMV ^ VwrW' yirtii : it l;\<;tr(^ t'ov t \v\\' \\\\\^ rntiv, ntulwii-^ 
--*^lit^K' MM^vcK \\x\\\\\ \\w trllitig. (hit I woul«l tiol 
fiAXr hrrlV siltm rthowt it il \ \\m\ tho\1p>t lh;U yott crtHMl 
to Vw^^w ." 

K\^^\ )\-\\isr<i .i'^ it t\) rt>t>sirWf. 

"Ami yvt." he saikI ^twiotly, "wIumi I asked you 
W'KxnVM t^Ht^iv w MS .iwy \\\^^^ \\\\x\\\\ you invlett-ett-— — ** 

"M sft\\^ w."" s.iwrsWilrt. vising tVowt hot rhitiv \w mtron 
ti\)1lih1o r^git.itiow. " ;iwt1 \ say 50 ;i^\liw.^' 

Uov tfl<Y ^rnnrxl. hwt hrv rWs U)oktMl stt hight iot«> Iwf 
^nsh.iruVs, t\\\\\. \\\\v\\m\wo\ IviMi MiinhMl h\ ptTJutlirj' 
artx! siisi"»tx.uvi\, hr mwsl haN^e seen ihnt she was speaking 
th* tttitft. 



fZ/A' ftrrfit nt i'fth thitfMh. 



tin 



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V<ill Mfly *u» MgMlff ? " Im- H'(<^r<lf^l '^lowlv. " f li;»f h;i»s 



Ifi 



(i 



iuMlllliK I'mIo wlfll fhr Ml ill' ) f mu <i^><'nhmp> nt fic; rl;»y 
fll HI. Alfdfrwi whf'tl v"tl fifofniq^d In ff«,'<ffy frir Mrfff 
— M/// wjiM lli«'h' H(t tt\\u't nuiii wh(Uti ynif (ovf<l ficfffr 

riir- « h.'Utc;' ill lie- ^»^ftf fff Mif ffifrMflnn diqrnfjcefte<l 
Mtollii. Sli'' '\\iuu\ silrnl, wi(l) fl'(\vf((,'(sf cyfi. 

MM«M»'i(ly HimmvIh^ Mfi cMvohjif wfii( li li'- lirt'f /(rfKlnrffl 
(M»tti lil'^ |i(M krt. (i|)nii flu* tnltlo. " YoK Unf\ wfiftffr fhf««e 
Irlh'm Id joint tfritlfliflKl'Mf <(ol <u> vrfy lofif^ fK-fnfo ; (fof^fl 
ft wMltlfiH'M lif'M»l ( IfMMfn' 'ui /(((i( Uy ? T.-itfifr, f ,tff» ifirlirird 
U» lu'llcvf, yoil « linqf In ^jMy wli;)! you d(VI fiot fjiflfr ffifMrt j 
ynil rJiMM^' lo MimI<»' ffif llijf(k llinf yfxf firffrTt^fl fru*, so 
llt.'il y(»il fuigltl li'tl loM<> yoKf rlirtn/f of uvik'tfm wImI the 
uOtl'l '"flll'^ M iHJlliMliI lf«r»ftiM^<' Well, yOil I(mJ wh,tf y<Ml 
wi^lirrl Ihf ; Mfifl yMii fuhv 9cr Ih^ fCMiilt. A fn,trr(,i|^f fhnt 
lu>j/|M'( III flfv cil I'! >u\t(' hi fffrl If) lov't'")'i tru^cty." 

MIm volt f liMfl ^rfowii '^o l(;if;li, lilf^ lOfK* ';o Mllf r, tUnt 
Htflht u-:m qliimil;il(«l In sriy ff worfl iti 'if If defence. 



I fifvef v(»liMitMrlly (Irr r-lvfd you, AInfi 
He poifilcfl lo llif fMivrlopf f<f< tlie trthfe 



♦< 



Pcflijijtq yn<i Itftvr- forgollffi wl(,il you wrofe there? 
^lMv I fi^k y'»" Hndly to^lnfuc ovrr those lefterq whi^h, 
liv ili^* l»y, yoil iii.'iy keep, mm J hnve no wish ?o retain 
idem." 

Rlellrt'-i li.ilul elo'^ed on the enveloof. She movc<l nway 
\m\\\ the 1,'ihle fi?i If fihoiil to lenve the room, fnrt her hifs- 
lunur^ volee delnined her. 



" I shdiilfl itrefer your lof»lcinp; ni Ihem now, if yn\t have 
tu> t)li)eftlM(i." 

Stellft //f^/ ?ni olijeellon «?he hnd rnnny ohjeetion •, hnt 
none iir Ihctn wfjiihl, fthe knew, prevnil n^ninst the ffrfct 
(»f her husl);int1's will. With Iremhlint^ finders she opened 
ihe envehipe ntid look Ihenre those two (>ifemis little 
If'ttets to johti MMuniup,toti letters written in su<:h .ingitish 
mI sdltl. hill :ilso ill sin li perfeM trust nrid love. She tried 
10 feud the W(»tds, Imt they dniired hf-forc her eyes. 

"You have rend Iheni? " snid Alan's voice at last. It 
hud lost 1(3 inotuentMry veheirienee, and was calm and 
sUftvc tin usiiid. " You have read them ? " 

"1 teineinher what I said," returned Stella, with diffi- 
'tilty. 



I 






l26 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



" And — what else ? You did not mean what you said, 
perhaps ? You have also some explanation to give — some 
excuse " 



" No," said Stella, becoming calmer as she spoke. " You 
are quite mistaken. These letters do not want explana 
tion. I meant every word of them — every word." 

Alan's face turned still more pale. " Yet you tell me 
that you have not deceived me?" he said, with shaking 
voice. " You loved this man when you married me — and 

you told me You juggle with words as all women do. 

The fact is plain enough ; you led me to believe that your 
heart was free, and at the same time it was given to another 
man ! I call that deceit : I say that you made me believe 
a lie." 

Stella looked at him gravely, soberly, from out those 
beautiful eyes, the tranquillity of which had always been 
to him their greatest charm. Her agitation had vanished : 
she was perfectly collected and unmoved. The shock of 
his unjust judgment of her had steadied her trembling 
nerves. 

" You are wrong," she said, with curious quietness. 
" No ; hear me, Alan : I must and will speak now. You 
have read my letters, it seems — a thing that I should 
scarcely have expected you to do — but I will forgive you 
for it if we are led thereby to a full explanation : a clearing 
away of the cloud that has lately hung about us. You 
seem to think that I wrote those letters immediately before 
I promised to marry you. If you look at the dates you 
will see that they were written a year before. A year is a 
] )ng time in a young girl's lif j, Alan. John Hannington 
had indeed won my girlish love, but he had cast me off 
when he found that I was poor : he wrote to me — rejecting 

the love that he had won " A little catch in her 

breath made her pause : the color mounted to her brow at 
the remembrance of the treatment that she had received ; 
and Alan's brow grew black as night at the thought of it. 
Presently, however, she resumed, in the same tranquil 
voice. " I was pained — ^humiliated — for a time I even 
thought that I was heartbroken. But little by little I 
learned that it was not so. My fancy had been touched ; 
but I had never given my whole heart to John Hannington. 
I had kept that for — another — for a worthier man." 

She stopped short again, breathing quickly. Alan looked 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



iii 



at her eagerly : he even made a step towards her, but he 
did not speak. 

" It took me some lime to find all this out," said Stella, 
after a little pause. " I did not know — I could not tell — 
at once. When you asked me to be your wife, I felt that 
my greatest happiness would be to help you. I had lost 
all my love for Mr. Hannington, but I did not know — I 
was not sure whether I could care for anybody else in 
the same way. And it has never been the same way. 
The love that I have borne to my husband has been 
deeper, truer than any I ever knew before : it is different 
in its essence from any other : I gave him — long ago — my 
whole heart, my whole soul." 

" Stella ! Stella ! " cried Alan, stretching out his hands. 
But she would not take them : she drew herself up to her 
full height, and let him see that her tranquil eyes could 
flash indignant fire. 

" Not yet ! " she said. " Not yet ! — I have more to say. 
I did not find this out for some time, but I knew enough 
of my own heart to be able to say, truthfully, that there 
was no man who had a claim to me, no man whom I pre- 
ferred. It was much less than the truth — but a woman is 
not bound to give more than she has been asked for, Alan, 
and yow— you never asked me for my love. I gave that 
to you unsought." 

" You gave it to me ? You loved me all the while ? 
Stella, my darling " 

" Listen," she went on inflexibly. " Everything must 
be said now if ever it is to be said at all. I loved you, I 
say ; and you threw my love back into my face. You have 
distrusted me — insulted me — been harsher and crueller 
and colder to me than John Hannington himself; and I 
have not been able to bear it, Alan ; I think love will bear 
anything but injustice to itself — disbelief in its existence. 
That hurts it, maims it — kills it finally ; there comes a day 
when you look for it and it is dead." 



I 



.t 



> • 



aaa 



THE LUCK OF Tllli JIOUHE, 



CHAPTER XXXI. 



" NOT IN THE BOND." 



"Is your love for me dead, then, Stella?" Moncrieff 
asked. 

She had sunk back wearily in her chair, and he stood 
before her, with arms crossed upon his breast, with a grey 
pallor about his lips, and a look of bitter pain in his deep 
set eyes. She sighed is she made answer. 

" I am afraid so." 

" You mean that I have killed it? I — I don't under- 
stand. I am very obtuse, I know, but — what have I done ? 
Let me have the whole truth : I want to know the worst." 

" What have you done? Can you ask the question of 
me? Ask yourself." 

" I do ask myself," said Alan, in a tone where a sup- 
pressed vehemence began to make itself audible, ** and I 
do not see that I have much to reproach myself with." 
She looked at him mutely, and the silent mournfulness 
that had crept into her eyes cut him to the heart. " What 
have I done ? Are you so different from other women 
that I must not thi.^k of you as I have thought of them ? 
I suppose that is i ^ fault : I have not set you up on a 
sufficiently high pedestal : I have not pretended to wor- 
ship : I have been too sincere " 

" What right have you to judge women as you have 
judged them? " Stella asked. 

" The right of long study, the right of a man who has 
been duped and tricked all his life long." Alan spoke out, 
passionately. *' Why should I, of all men, have any faith 
in them ? My mother broke my father's heart. My wife 
married me for my money. My daughter has robbed me 
and run away from home. You, Stella, you " 

His voice broke, he could say no more. 

" I," said Stella, gently, "have often been foolish and 
ill-advised, but never untrue. You have condemned me 
unheard all along — from your experience of other women, 
not from your experience of me." 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



as3 



He looked at her anJ set his teeth, but he could find no 
words in which to reply. 

" You have not meant to be cruel," she went on, the 
tears coming to her eyes : but you have often been very 
cruel to me, Alan. You have been suspicious and unjust. 
It has been with your children as with me ; you have 
never trusted them or let them feel that you loved them. 
It was worse for them than for mc — I should not say that 
it is the same — for they at least had a claim to your love : 
it was their right, and you hid it from them until they 
thought that it was not there at all. Can you wonder then 
if they distrusted you in turn ? " 

" It was your right, too," he said, hoarsely. " You had 
a wife's claim " 

" No, no, indeed I had not," cried Stella, suddenly 
bursting into tears. " That was not in the bond, Alan, 
and that is the worst of it. You never asked me for my 
love, and you never gave me your own. That is why our 
marriage has been such a failure, such a mistake. I ought 
not to have answered you when you asked me to marry 
you." 

" Because you did not love me ? " 

" Because you had no love for w^," said his wife, pas- 
sionately, ** and because no woman should give herself for 
anything but love. I was weak enough to think that I 
could conquer your coldness to me. It was not long 
before I learned that I loved you ; that I would give all 
the world for a smile from you, a really tender, loving 
word. I did not find out how much I cared until I was 
your wife. And then I hoped — I tried — I prayed. Oh, 
what use was it all ? You were like a rock : you had no 
heart, no pity : you wanted a chaperon for your daughter 
— that was all ; and as a friend you prefered Ralph King- 
scott's society to mine. Do you think I have not suffered ? 
Do you think my life has been a very easy one ? You 
promised once to make me a happy woman ; but you forgot 
that promise when you brought me to Torresmuir." 

Moncrifeff's face had grown very white as she hurled her 
words at him ; he was aghast at her vehemence. He had 
never seen her so intensely moved before. 

" I tried to make you happy," he said, in a low voice. 

" Did you think that I could be happy when you treated 
me like a child ? " she asked. " When you gave me fine 



J,: 



«?4 



rn>^ f.trk' or^ rnr. rrotisK 



\\w\v \\\\'^ hvvW ,1 p:1|i \\\\\r\\ \\\^\\\\\\\ ( niiUl 1^11. I Wrttllrrj 
yo\\t lovr. Al.ni ; \ rmkitl TrM Inrrttl rtiid y(ni pfivr ttie n 



Flonr 



t^rthr sitity rMnwr iii;\vvi«'(l lUb? will i| l»r fi lu-ltct otir il 
1 pi) t^n \ri ihc l^r^t ph;isr kM il P r«)l»inrss IV^Honrtl l)y tli'j 



ronsniiwf) U^ ww"^ W w^^ il \\\v w-A)- In itinkc- tuc luippy? 
tosl^ow \s\ rVtMN lt>nt< MsA (VfMV Wolrl ili.H vnU liful IH> r» 



Ml 



ftiWinr in \\\\\ \\\M y<Mi l>c1irv('(l nu> \v:\\\\ t») cIim rive yon 
rtt rvrntnvn? t rr>\tM ibvgiVr tllt t'oldHrss — I rrtll wr'^ 

whole Tonn -^h.-ikm by Ium snns. A Inn stooil trgrtnlin^ lui 
with rt t(M>k sn,inm)\ < '\n1)^t^nnt!r^^ (M :\in;t7r. snrtnrss, srlf 
V^^n•^^.1^h. ^\\\\ \\ h mlrvnrss lov wlnrh slir wntiM liiudiv 
h.ivr given 1\in\ m ilil. \\ \\\'^\. t\\\\\ \\\\v\\ \\v\ sobs wen- 
dying .i\v.iy, he spoke in ii voire kepi stttiliotisly \\m nml 



)m. 



" 1 Mippo^^e it t"^ no ttst? io tty to jtistifv oneself. Stelln ; 
!nit theee nve one or two things th;tt 1 tinnk 1 tnnst s:o. 
As iTgrtnU the eohlness, 11 — thit^k \ys\\ \\v\v tnistnken 
\ \\\y\ not leel roKlly. t — Well/' observing n slight 
shtnl^lev vnn throtigh'het iVrttne. rts thongh her Whole bt'iii^ 
tT\^>ltr»1 ngninst \\\\\\\ he s.-iiil. " 1 need nol rotttinne on 
lh.1t \.1ek. 1 see. As to the disttttsl — yes, 1 .'trknowlnlgc 
th.1t it NV.1S there. It r.nne iVoni tnv getuMitl idesi nbiMti 
won\en : \ thong)>t th.it ;>11 wott\(M^ weie dereitlttl nttil \\\v 
r.indid ; t \wm\v nx"> e\ee)>tions— even tor tttv wife. I ron 
fess this. Stell.1, .mil \ will ;t1so m\\\ th.it ytn» h.iveeotnpiereil 
Wi? : I ilo believe in yotn it nth, and 1 will ttevtr doul)l it 
AgAin. Will this siit^ire ? " 

" \{ is b>o l.itx\" she nnninutvd. 
1\X> Irtte tor wh.n ? Not too l.ite to show tnv tfnst in 



t» 



\v»n ' Stelli. yo\i sh.iU H^er blttne me iigain for wnnt 
o>nfidenix^. l\it\ \^>\i ni>t believe tne ? " 

His o.ivnestness in.ide her lit^ her dnH>ping hend ftn«l 
K'>x>k At him with her p.ithetie. te.ir tilled eyes. lUil there 
WAS no sign v>t relenting \n her th*^. 

" 1 would, it 1 I ould, Alan," she said, wisiruUy. It is 



rnti t.tuhr nr tup. nnt'sf'.. 



it^ 



tint 1»V my will lllftt I «tfPtti ll.ltrt ntul rnld ft hl^f•<;^1|q^ \ 
kltun' lluit jf VM1I llMVf fH'!hll'^frf| (irn|i|f« fill yOlIf- life, yfilj 

r.'HHiHf Mnrldctilv rli;»ti^r yo'ir linfiit ol niin'l Mlj^fli'- wor/1 



01 rntMltiftHM y(Mi r!Hi:ic»t rcnily ftflipvr w 



lif-rf 



V'lii linvt 



jlniihUMl «ilin|tly hcfnii'ic ynii wi^li to Itflicve. If in iinpos- 
Mihlr." 

" It U tlof Itupoqqililr, F^lrllM. lu'f .1il«r it h fMlo." 
" No." q)io q;ti»|, '^liMkiii^; Itrf lifnil. fitid (Irmviiii' lfi hrr 
|(t(','tfli n little, "it /7rn7 Iw ttiif — Look, /M;iii." mIic wcfit 
ftn, with middcM oiiM^y mh»I He i'lifiti. " wlicn livrM Iimvo 
fuMif w tfUig ,is (MtfM lirtvc tloftf, it is U'U'lf"4M to tliitik of put- 
titig tlintl tigitt by ft lew wofdq of MiMtlo^y nhfl prctcfire. 
V»Mt ftn* sot^ty, I ltflicv(% to ««*e tliMt I tnkf tli«' wvAWct qri 
♦mil ll to lloMft ; ytJtl Ho f<M tin- nuMfiffit feci fis if you 



tfllMtcfl WW \ Itllt tf» inofffcw tlipf-r will l»r Molfif f)fw 



litth 



r;timf'fnt mmjiit ion ; Mf. Kiti^'^rott will Mny Mdffiftliifi^ 
'^liMlttitig, «»t yt)M will qc(> inf do ,'1 tl1in^ thnt you <lo not 
jM'tlcctly tnulcmtrnul ; find ynn will go Imrk tt» your old 
views of woiiu'ii, ntnl v<nif ol<l virws of inr, find it will lie 
li'ti titiM*«? l«;itd»M f«u mr to q«'c y(»u fclfipsc into tlic old 
diMlMHl \\\\\\\ if I Inid iH'Vcr listrficd to wlirit you srty to- 
tiight." 

•' It shtdl not lu- so. Stcllfi : I swcfir it i " 

" It is iu» ns»>. Wlwre i'l ytnir coffntuui smMr, Alfin?" 
shr jtnkt'd, nuMc t|Ui('tly, lint with fis itnnli derision ns ever. 
" Wo ftte tiot two silly ffiols, yon fiinl I, who think thfit we 
t ;ui rhiiuge iifitute fit ft word. Yon (finnot filter your con- 
virjinns of v«':its* stttnding, lieriHise ycMi are sorry to see 
nil' ery. |"'or oin e yiMi toe nnrefis»nifil>le ! 



"' Vou fire hfir«l on me, Slellfi," sfiid the man, tnrni 



"K 



fiside :i little. " I litive not, perhaps, mistrusted y(Miquite 
n-^ mmh as you imagine." 

"Oh, hush, husli!" she rried, almost indignantly. 
" Ujui't palter with the truth — even to make amends to 
tne. It is a wtiste of time (Ui your part. I have a better 
pl;in thfiu that for reslorin,;- y<»ur pefu c of mind — and 
mine. We have failed to he hajjpy together, and \ have 
heon of no use to ^^olly , f ran he no use to her now, for 
\"Ui will not 'Isten when I ph>ad with you to forgive her, 
\\mi are in; rriless to her as you are mer< iless to me." 

"CH)d knows," sai<l Al;in, between his te.th, " tliat f arn 
not— I have nev«M meant to he mer( iless." lie spoke 
doggedly, hut wiihuul soflnesa, 



^«rt 



Wf< Ujx'k ot' ivr^ ntst\sf^.. 



"Tlu'M 1u' mm ilni now.'* sMl«t \\U wir»>, ipilrkly. " mul 



fl^'t WW \\v\ 



»> 



11 



Sri y«ni fVrf ! \\ IcH eln vmm nicMH?" 

I,rl tnr m» niii iil this luMisr." she plriuliMl. " I ,rt ItiP 
\v\\\v '\\s\\v^\\\\\\\. I Mill mnkr tu» 'u iHulnl. I will ^;m 
i|ulrilv Mini •»|M'nly — MS if I wvw ^oing Int ;i lf»nf» visii 
BMtni'whrtr- fimt tmlMMlv will know lltitl I tin nol incun tn 



t onir l» 



•m\ 



Mfium. 



II 



i( 



Sh'lln. WW ytni immiI ? " 

IuiIcimK itulcnl. I \\\\\\V il Wnnlil lu'lhr hv^\ w:»y«** sl»' 
We do uol lovt' t';H-li other : how enti We l»t 



II 



srtiil. 
hjtppy 

'•rh;tllsnol (he <|ursli»in." s;ti«l Alnt), nhnowf hrtishlv 
Von h.'We M ihHy to uu% loul I luive one (o yon ; we cnit 
mn he tVee IhMn one Mnolhel." 

" Olhrv i^eoplr h;nr h(«'t\ imwlr (lee; It in in»t nn nn 
1\env«1 ot thitiji. Whv slenilil vo\i want ine to he iniHeluhlr i* 
\ \\s\\\\\ ^o MWfiv to l.onihnuol- to »iotne «|niel etnnilrv 
|>lttee, rtn«l f>el pnpils ; I (hink 1 rnnhl tnke enie of tittle 
wivls, unit 1 ^lnn1l^1 he nt rest ninl fit peiu e. Il is etnel lo 
keep n\e here — tnnv ! " 

" Mv |M>or thihl." RMitI ^^^nn riefl", verv slowly ninl pilv 
in^ly, " I wonM ilo nnvllnng in the worhl to ntnke yon 
happier, if it were ri^ht ; hnt this is mn rij^ht. I hnvc 
svVort\ to tnke eivre of yon to yotir life's eiul ; I nnisl 
not hre.ik th.il vow. And vtni hnve proinisett me too." 

" Mnt yo\i ronlil relrnse wr f * she siihl, ertgerly. Slic 
tnrned ;nni looked nl hhn. hrr '\y\\\\ in her eves, her hreitih 
eon\in^ ;ind ^oin^ tjnirklv hetweeti Inn |inrleil lips, lie 
also looked. Miully. seiurhin^ly. intently, and replied J 

" 1 shall never reh>ase voti. Voti are n\y wiTe." 

Then as hei whole lonn seemed to r(»llapse before hitn, 
as the tet^siott of hev nerves gave way, he eatmht her in 
his artns and held her. half lainting. rlnsely to his hreasl. 

" \ o\t are mv wile." \\v said, in a tone of doggetl rest'hi 
tion. "anvi 1 will nexer let voti go — von shall forgive me 
fust." 

lie yy'^\\\\\ m<l tell - hr did tint «mM h laie — whether shr 
heard his wonis or noi. W hen he looked at her fair fare 
il was while as vlealh. her eyeliils were elosed, and her 
head fell heavily agamst his Ini ast. The strain had l)cen 
lo\> nnn h for lu m. and she had famtt'd in his arms, 

^toUa did not remember (although she was allerwards 



rnn Kfih' otr wn rU)VsP:. 



9ii 



Iriljt) tlifit mIu' wrt*? f'jfflfd lip lo lier hioni In Aim's firm«»j 
hut '«he li!if| :t Ihiui. vM^M,' s«Mst'« rts sllf* rrtme to fif*fM«*ir, 
thrtt sMtiu* »»»>•' wjiq holding Iut » In^cjy, kissjuf/ tifr r»il(l 
frtii', .'IMjI fiuiMuiitin^ lunkcfi, ));msi(Muii«* wnr«l« d!" lov(» — . 
hut wh»'U hUi" tnovrfl miuI Kjioficn her »'y»'M Hh»* tlinii^ht 
thrtt It ffiust h.ivc h 'I'll M (h«';iiii. f(»f »ni (Mif wms nenr her 
hut tier tniiitl, jiiid Ahiu h.ul evidently gune dowiifltnirs 
rtg.'tiit. 

" ll«»w <1id I ^et Itcfe?" she rmked fecMy, hy nud hy. 

*' IVtrtstt'J- iMfrifd you UjistjilrH, Min'fitii, find cfdlpd me," 
•^rtid the tutiiel. And theft, with m fiirlive ^Iniif »• ?it her 
Miisltrsi's fitf-e, ihe ,'idd»'d ; " lie wjim in ?> ^tcni way nhdUt 
VDii, iim'jum --hfihlin^ your h.-ind nrnl kisqiftg ydti ■" 

"(live me the sal volatile, i»len«e/' snid Stellji. " You 
r.xw leave lue Ufiw, Imkson ; f nni hetter." 

And jrtrkmjn lijuf t(i j^o. 

.Stellfi wrt-i tiimhie to rise frofn her hed, however, for (he 
fiext drty or two. She felt we.ik find hroken, ,'«« if she hnd 
hrtd !i severe illness. As sofHi as she lifted her hefid from 
the pillow she turned dixzy and hilnt ; and the do( tor, whom 
Alrtti hrtd (Jrtlled in, reeommended perfeet rest and fpiiet. 
This e(Mdd easily he o''trtined : (here wrts nohofly, as she 
Ihou^ht to herself with a (/rent swelling of he.irt, noho/lv 
•o visit her, t«» sit hy her and fuirse her and r<iiisole her if 
she were ill. INun Molly was far away: Aufit jarkv lay 
silent in the grrtve. Stella had fiot made many women 
Irlemls in the n'?ighhorhood ; and Lady Val, who would 
have heen gentiinely kind (o her if she had had the oppor- 
limity, hrtd taken a house iti London. |aeks(»n, (he ICriglish 
maid, was n kind hut solefnti persofi : Mertie, who was just 
Mlarting hir his new tutor's hotise, ( a»fi(> to ask after hf-r 
omeor twiee and Ihen to say f^ood l»ye. She saw noljody 
else. Mr. MfMurled impiired at the door, and was afiswer 
ed hy Jaekstui, hut he refused (o rcmie in. Stella was 
l^lad of it : she felt too weak and weary and hurt in mind 
to wish t«i see his fare again. 

Mut on the fifth day, the sun shorie brightly in(o her rofim 
find insjured her with a wish to get np. As the dof tor 
liad ludered that she should do cxa<(ly as she pleased, 
ihete was no didUulty ahout this ; and at f(»nr o'rloc k she 
w.m seated in a eonilbrtahle c hair near her dressing room 
uindnw, whence she ecuild see the trees and the hills. It 
was not the most beautiful view to be obtained frcnn the 



?i 



a28 



THE LUCK Oh^ THE HO USE. 



windows of her room, but she felt less liking than usual for 
the sparkling brilliance of the view of the distant valley, 
and was glad to look at simple green trees and ordinary 
grass. She was not able to bear much light, and her eyes 
soon grew dim and tired : she closed them for a time, and 
must have fiillen into a quiet doze, for when she looked up 
at last, with a sudden start, she found that she was not 
alone. Alan had come softly into the room, and stood 
leaning against the window, watchiiig her as she slept. 
In the first moment of waking, Stella could almost have 
thought that she read a new expression in his face — a look 
of tenderness, a look of contrition and concern. But when 
she started up, the softness cf that new expression passed 
away : his face was once more grave and rather stern, an»! 
at the sight of it she felt her hea? t begin to beat painfully 
fast and her breath to come short and fast with a sensation 
of fear and distress. 

He noticed her change of demeanor, and a look of acute 
pain passed over his face. 

" I came to see for myself how you were," he said, coldly, 
but with an accent of embarrassment. " I hope you arc 
feeling better ? " 

" Yes, thank you," said Stella, not daring to look up. 
Her color fluctuated sadly. 

" I brought you some flowers," Alan went on — the con 
straint of his manner becoming more and more apparent as 
he spoke. " You have not been outside the door for so 
many days that I thought you might care for these." 

Stella looked up, not roused to any vivid interest. What 
did she care just then for flowers — exotics, she supposed, 
grown in a hothouse, and bought with the coin of which 
he was always lavish ? But when she saw what was in his 
hand she uttered an involuntary little cry of surprise and 
delight. 

Violets, bli^e and \vhite, primroses, anemones, the damp 
earthy smell still clinging about their stalks and leaves, an 
orchid or two such as grow wild in that part of the world, 
a host of delicate ferns, newly uncurled from their nests in 
the warm ground — these formed just such a posy as Stella 
loved. True, they were badly put together : the stalks 
were uneven, the leaves ragged, the whole as unharmonious 
as spring flowers ever could be, out the scent of the wild 
sweet blos&oms was delicious, and the suggestion of spring 
and sunshine irresistibly grateful to Stella's senses. 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



229 



damp 

ves, an 

world, 

lests in 

Stella 

stalks 
onions 
le wild 

spring 



And the giver ? Never did donor of a bouquet look more 
unfitted to grope amongst wet leaves on damp hill-sides in 
search of spring flowers than Alan Moncricff, with his grave, 
proud face and stately presence I And yet he lost no iota 
of his dignity as he laid his little offering on Stella's knee, 
with a simple gravity which made the action seem natural 
and in keeping with his character. Stella looked at him 
gratefully. 

" Thank you — oh, thank you : I like Ihcm so much." 

He watched the white fingers — they had grown thin of 
late — as they toyed with the fragrant flowers and held 
them to her nostrils, and then, still watching them, he 
said — 

" I have — if you will allow me — a requc^st to make." 

" Yes," she breathed, the bright?^ jss vanishing hastily 
from her face. 

*' I should like to ask you," said Alan, *' to j)romise me — 
if you will — to take no steps without informing me — I mear^ 
concerning the — the proposal you made on Monday night. 
You will not leave Torresmuir, for instance, without at 
least telling me first." 

" No," said Stella, faintly. 

'' When you are stronger," her husband went on, " we 
can discuss the matter further, if you like. But you — you 
will not do anything without consulting me — you promise ? " 

" I promise." 

" Thank you." It was wonderful to hear with what ear- 
nestness he spoke. " Now, I shall feel secure." 

" But — suppose I break my promise ? " some strange 
influence prompted Stella to say. " You trust no one : do 
not trust me." 

" I would trust you with my life," he answered, in a tone 
of curious intensity. " My life — my — honor — my all." 

She shrank a little, and began nervously to rearrange 
the flowers. After a short pause he spoke in more ordinary 
tones. 

" I had one thing to tell you. I have written to — to 
Molly and Hannington. 1 have given them the money 
they wanted. I thought you might like to know." 

"And — your forgiveness ?" said Stella, quickly. 

But to this question she got no answer. Jackson entered 
with a cup of tea, and Mr. Moncriefi', succumbing beneath 
her disapproving glances, was obliged to quit the room. 



;.. ..: 

■ : 
, 

i 

hi 


s 

■ 



•3« 



TITR LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



\ 



CHAPTER 7XXII. 

Tlady vai/s friendship. 

"Why should t go to see your new little friend?'* said 
l<ady Vol, idly, "rm not philanthropic, Charlie." 

She was sitting in a low chair l)cside a little scarlet tea- 
table, in a pleasant, luxuriously-furnished room overlook- 
ing the Park. Through the high windows one could catch 
glimpses of soft blue sky and pale green foliage that showed 
the ai)proach of sinnmer days. Kvery table in Lady Val's 
drawing-room was crowded with ])ots and vases of flowers : 
they were " her one extravagance," she used to declare. 
Other people thought that she had considerably more than 
one. 

Opposite Lady Val, on another low chair, sat Charlie 
Rutherford. He was stooping forward to play with the 
silky ears of a dainty little dog — Lady VaVs latest favor- 
ite — but the attitude was evidently assumed to conceal 
some trace of nervousness or embarrassment, and his hos- 
tess's quick eye noted the reason without loss of time. 

" Don't tease Chico," she said, " but sit up and tell mc 
all about your prott^^e — oh, that isn't the right word, i 
see ! Never mind. Who is she, and why should I take an 
interest in her ? " 

** She comes from your part of the country. Lady Val," 
said the young man, solemnly, " and she is very unhappy 
and in want of friends." 

'* Yes, but, my dear boy, I can't go and see everybody 
who is in want of friends ! Why is she in want of friends ? 
Isn't she in our own set ? 1 will have nothing to do witn 
any Quixotism, remember; it is not in my line." 

" You have changed, T«ady Valencia," said Captain Ruth 
erford, reproachfully. ** You used to be always so ready 
to help. 

" That was in the days when I was a nobody," sale] 
I^dy Val, composedly. " It did not much matter thcr 
what I did or where I went. Times are changed, Charlie, 
and I have changed with thorn — perhaps." 



TTTR r.VCk OF THE ttOVSE, 



•3> 



"But not ill that way!" said (Iharlio, with tho warm- 
hearted simplii ity which was always rharaclctistic <»f him. 
"You cannot have grown lens kind, U-ss sympathetir than 
you used to he, although you are so mtirh richer and 
grander, Lady V.il I If I thought that, I sixiuld regret the 
change indeed. Hut everybody knows that you are onecjf 
the most generous women in London." 

•'Does yotir young friend want a five-pound note?" 
said Lady Val, with a pleased but mocking light in her 
fine dark eyes. " I am (piite open to flattery, I acknow- 
ledge ; but the sooner you let me know what is re((uired of 
me, the better, Charlie I " 

" She is not in want of money as far as \ knf)W," an- 
swered Charlie — far too much in earnest to respfind in a 
suitably light-hearted manner to Lady Valencia's jesting ; 
•' but she wants friendly counsel and advice. She ir. a 
mere child, although a married woman ; and as she 
married against the wish of her friends, they are not taking 
any notice of her " 

Lady Val had taken up a great scarlet and black fan 
which lay on a painted milking-stool beside her, and was 
swinging it slowly backwards and forwards. She now let 
it rest against her lips, and listened more intently, a slight 
frown making itself visible on her curved black brows. 

" And she is awfully grieved about it : she seems to bo 
so fond of her father, and it is so sad for her to be all 
alone in London without a friend. Her husband— well, I 
suppose she's fond of him, but a man can't always be at 
home, you know, and she sits alone and — and — cries her 
heart out." And then Charlie leaned back in his chair 
looking quite overcome by the picture that he had drawn. 

" It cannot be," said Lady Valencia, with more than her 
usual crispness of enunciation, " that you are trying to 
enlist my sympathies on behalf of Alan Moncrieff 's run- 
away daughter ? " 

Charlie looked at her. " I never heard that it was a 
crime for a girl to marry the man she loved, even if it 
Were against her father's will," he said, stiffly. 

"Against her father's will! Her father never was 
asked," said Lady Val, drily. She laid down her fan : 
the hot color had leaped into her face, and her eyes were 
unnaturally bright. " Excuse me, Charlie, I know the 
circumstances, and I know Molly Moncrieff — that is to 



' \': 



r 
i 



43* 



TtfE LUCK OF THE fWVSP.. 



i! 



! 



sfty, T iisrd to know her. SIu* bclmvrd very Imdly to hrr 
father- wlio is one of the most upright, honorable, kiiul 
hearted men in Se(»tl.ind — and 1 (annot say that I nm 
ahogetlier sorry if she now finds Iier position disagree- 
able." 

Charlie rose from his < hair. " If thai is the view you 
take of it, I won't trouble yoti any longer, I.ady Val." he 
saiti, with a line dignity, whi« h was perhaps a little bit 
impaired by something ol boyish tremor in his voice. 
" My father and Mr. MoiurielT were friends so long that 1 
ean't help thinking of Mrs. llanninglon as a friend too, 
and I don't like to hear her conduet put in what seems to 
me an unjust light. 1 think 1 must be going now, and I'll 
— ril — wish you good afternoon, Lady Valencia." 

He bowed and made his way to the door, quite forget- 
ting to shake hands with his hostess. Lady Val let him 
make his way down the long drawingroom without a word 
of reply : but she watrhed him with a very inscrutable 
look in her eyes, and when he was fumbling with the door- 
handle she broke into a little laugh and called him back to 
her. 

" Don't go like that, you dear silly boy — excuse mc, 
Charlie, but you know I always look on you as one of my 
younger brothers, and 1 take the privilege of speaking my 
mind. Come back and tell me about Molly : I'm really 
sorry for the })oor child, although she did make such a— 
such a fool of herself ! Perhaps it was not altogether her 
fault, however ; she is certainly a child — a mere child ! ' 
and a quick sigh followed the words. 

*'Yes, indeed. Lady Val,'*and so innocent-minded and 
candid," said Charlie, much relieved by his hostess' 
change of front, and eager to seat himself again and talk 
of Molly's many perfections. " Of course it was not her 
fault : it was all that fellow, John Hannington's, no doubt. 
I hope he knows what a prize he has got, that's all." 

**I hope he does," said Lady Val. "Molly has no 
harm in her — I am sure of that ; and a pure-minded, 
affectionate girl, even if she has been a little silly to begin 
with, might still make him an admirable wife." 

*' Far better than he deserves ! " growled Captain 
Rutherford. 

**Well, Jack Hannington used to be rather a great 
friend of mine," avowed Lady Val, courageously, "and 



THE IVCK OF THE HOUSE, 



m 



I'm not g(»Ing to hear him nhnscd by you, Mar' Charlie. 
I must say I Ihiuk the two have made a great mislake. 
But it may turn out well in the end." 

" Yoti don't [lake the ron»''*^h<" view : some people say 
'all for love and the world ..ell lost;' don't they?" said 
Charlie, rather awkw;irdly. 

"They do. And I'm not sure whether I don't agree 
with them. Hut 'the world well lost' where Jo!.n Han- 
nington is concerned?"- she spoke bitterly — "can you 
imagine that he was so simple-minded? " 

"You dofi't mean that he did not care for her?" said 
Charlie, turning very red. 

" No, no, of course not," she answered, hastily. " WH,it 
was I saying ? 1 only made a general remark, and you 
need not ruffle up your feathers over it in that way, 
Charlie. I hope, by the by, that you are not going to 
pose as poor Molly's defender and freux chevalier 1 
That is not the way to do her any good. A young pretty 
married woman wants friends of her own sex, not men of 
your age. Don't go round championing her as you have 
been doing to-day." 

" If she wants friends of her own sex. Lady Val," said 
Charlie, ingenuously, won't you be one of them ? " 

He could not imagine why Lady Val looked sad and 
grave for a moment. But then she smiled so kindly that 
he felt as if he had won a triumj)h. 

"To please you, \ will, Charlie," she said; "on condi- 
tion, at least, that you don't behave foolishly. Mrs. Han- 
nington is very pretty and charming, and you may be very 
sorry for her position ; but, believe me, you will do nobody 
any good by showing strong feeling about it." 

Charlie fidgeted and looked straight before him as she 
spoke. After a little ])ause he said, manfully — 

" I hope you don't think thav I would do anyth-'ng that 
a gentleman might not do, Lady Val? " 

" No, I don't," said Lady Val, with her brightest smile, 
" but I was afraid that you might be a little imprudent. If 
you are very good, I will tell you what I will do. I wdl 
call on Mrs. Hannington to-morrow, and I will try to 
make friends with her. She shall come here, and I will 
do my best to prevent her from feeling lonely any more. 
Will that satisfy you ? " 

You are most kind," the young man declared, warmly. 



i( 



if 
11 



334 



THE LVCK OF THE HOUSE, 



" I thought that I could count upon your sympathy, Lady 
Valencia. And I will be careful — but you must not 
misunderstand my friendly feeling for Mrs. ITannington : 
our fathers, you know, have been close friends for years." 

"All right, Charlie, I understand. And now I must 
send you off, for we are to dine early to-night, and I have 
to go and dress. I will look after Mrs. Hannington : 
never fear." 

But, although she dismissed him so summarily, Lady 
Val did not go to her dressing-room for more than half an 
hour after his departure. She lay back in her chair, look- 
ing dreamily before her : now and then a great sigh seemed 
to come from the very bottom of her heart. She looked 
as few people had ever seen her look — utterly weary, 
utterly depressed. 

" How foolish I am ! " she said to herself at last, as she 
roused herself and rose from her chair. " There is no use 
in crying over spilt milk, as the homely proverb says. I 
ought to be only too thankful that I have a chance of 
helping that poor child — perhaps of helping her husband 
too. Now, if things had been 'ordered* differently, as 
some of my friends would express it, we should all have 
been shuffled like a pack of cards. Charlie Rutherford is 
the beau ideal of a husband for little Molly — brave, simple, 
honest, handsome, rich ; and poor, battered, disreputable 
Jack would have suited me admirably, for I could have 
managed him, poor boy, which Molly will never be able to 
do. Heigho ! ' how easily things go wrong ! ' And when 
they do — well, nothing can set them straight. 

** * Then follows a mist and a driving rain, 
And life is never the same again."* 

" To think that I should fall to quoting poetry ! " And, 
with a shrug of her graceful shoulders, a smile and a sigh, 
Lady Val went upstairs to dress. 

The part of grande dame was one for which she was 
admirably fitted. Her new wealth did not spoil her : it 
was noticed that a touch of softness had been added to 
her charm of manner, and a faint suggestion of sadness 
that sometimes crept into her eyes made her brilliant 
beauty altogether gentler and more lovable. She rented 
a pretty little house near the Park, and seemed resolved 
to take advantage of all the privileges which her posi- 



, /THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



23s. 



was 
er: it 
ed to 
dness 
illiant 
ented 
solved 

posi- 



tion, her striking personality, and her wealthy were 
likely to aflforJ her. For Molly Hannington, unknown, 
unloved, and i)crilously pretty, there would he no greater 
stroke of wordly good fortune than to be ** taken up " and 
introduced to society by Lady Valencia Gilderoy. For 
although Lady Val was still unmarried, and had for some 
time been known in connection with a rather fast set of 
men and women, her undoubted brilliance and the position 
of her family, as well as her vein of dauntless cynical good 
sense, had always sufticed to give her a considerable 
standing in the London world ; and now that she was the 
mistress of incalculable wealth, it was highly probable that 
she would in good time become one of the "leaders " of 
society. 

All this John Hannington knew and gnashed his teeth 
over. Not only from love of Valencia Gilderoy as a woman, 
but out of envy and malice, and all uncharitableness. 
What were Molly's trumpery hundreds in comparison with 
Lady Val's thousand:* ? What were Molly's girlish fresh- 
ness and innocent beauty when set against La( y Val's 
modish brillance and savoir faire i He could have hated 
his wife sometimes for the mistake which she had caused 
him to make. 

He came home one afternoon and found her radiant, 
yet tremulous. 

" Oh, Jack," she said, flying to him with shining wet 
«yes and lovely color in her face, " ivho do you think has 
been to see me ? It was like a bit of my old home I I 
cried when I saw her, I was so glad ! Guess who it was 1 " 

" Mrs. Moncrieff ? " asked Jack, moodily. 
' " Oh ! no, no ; she is not in London, is she ? No, some- 
body whom you iisti to know very weJU She told me 
that she was an old friend of yours." 

*« Not. -" ' "^ 

But the name dieci on Hannington s lips. The habitual 
frown upon his forehead suddenly deepened ; a strange 
light came into his eyes. Molly was not wise enough to 
read these ominous signs. 

" You have guessed, I am sure," she said, laughing with 
all her old gaiety of heart. " Lady Valencia Gilderoy ! 
What do you think of that, Jack ? And she has come into 
a lot of money, more than she knows what to do with, she 
says, and she has a house in Park Lane and- 






n 






•3« 



{TNF nrCK' OF rtlh liOt'SK. 






\ 



\ 



** \\\k\ fitmo hrtr to glr.Mt over ntn povrrly niul rnlnr^r 
i>n luM tnvn ningnitu tM\« i*, I su|»|iosr ! " sjiitl Hnnniii^t«)n, 
snvrtgt'lv. riu' vrins on liis loielir.id wiTc swoIltMi until 
tlu\v stood out like < onU. 

"Oh, tio, jmk! How rouM slu* be ro mnin?" siiid 
Molly. j\ little intiniitltteil l>v his tnanner, luil not in thr 
lenst inulerstnndinu it. " She r.nni' out «>f kindness, Jnrk, 
l>e«ause she thonglu th.it 1 shotdd he lonely sonirtitnes, sis 
I know st> tew |u'ople in l.omloti. Shewnnts me to go lot 
ti drive with her to morrow, nnd she s;\ys that I mtisl goto 
hineh nit the lU'Xl day, niul then she tan introthn e me to 
some of her friends " 

" N o\i will do nothing of the sort," said Hannington, 
sternly. " Von will see as little «>!" I.ady Valeiuia (iilde 
rov as j-ou can. 1 do nol w ish you lo make a Iriend ol 
heV." 

Kvet^ lady Val herself wotiUI hardly have known him if 
she had see!H\im looking as he did now, with thai red tlush 
\»pon his fai e. that Mark frown distorting his features, that 
malignant light in his dark eyes. 

" l^ut why why nol?" said Molly, shrinking back. 

" IUh anse \ i hoose." 

" I thought yon were friends, Jaek ? " 

" Friends 1 What is that to you? What do you know 
ab(MU friendship ? Vou will nol eross I ,ady Valemi.i (Iilde 
roy's threshold, do you hear? 1 will not have it." 

'* lUil I promised," said Molly, the lea. \ rapidly gather 
ing in her lovely grievii^g eyes. " I said that I would 
and, indeed, jaek, il wouKl be sueh a pleasure to me- I 
gel out so little, and I see so few people ! " 

Hannington uttered an oath whieh made her start ; she 
had never heard him swear before. "Do you mean to 
obey me or do you not?" he asked with unwonted fierec- 
noss. 

*• Not any the more beeause you swear at me ! " cried 
Molly, firing up. Her eyes flashed at him indignantly. 

"You will i\<s what 1 tell you whether yoiHike it or not, 
madam. I'll have no insubordination of that kind. Yo\i 
will not go to Lady Val's house unless I give you leave." 

" She was my father's friend before 1 ever saw you, " 
Molly burst o\it, her temper as usual getting the l)Cttcr of 
her prudence, " and I do not sec W'hy I should give her 

up." 

i 



tiiE r.vcK vir rtiE nor SI 



ni 



sill' tluMi^ht rtt fint thrtt lu« wjh Koiiig fontrikc her. I In- 
l^j'shitf of his (IciH lied fisls wjih rcrtiiiiily tliU'aUiiing. 
Hut, nfli'r fi tmmu'iit's |mus«', lie Niwrml his h.uMl , Ihc 
sufTiisfMl H(l of his I fMMilcmiiM (' ^UKhiully ^avf way to ;i 
livid |inllnr, and when \\v. .spukf, his voit (\ though thi( k, 
wasju'tfff tiy ralm in t<»iu'. 

" ViHi don't see? Then I'll ^ive yon a reason. Yon 
will not have more to do with I.ndy V;il than yoti « an helji, 
because you will fiiul it wiser to keep her at a distaru e. I 
told yr)U nine that there was ordy one wonian that I had 
really loved. !t was iH)t yourself, as y(Mi were vain enouj^h 
to think. It was Valenria (iihleroy ; and if she had ( orne 
into that ac-enrsed money of hers a week earlier, I wonhi 
have nuirried her and thrown you over at a moment's 
notice. 1 wish I h id and risked the loss of mcmey. For 
I suppose I an» tie<l to you for life, and I lf»ve her stilt. 
'/J^rf/ is the rea 'U why I warn you not to see too inu<:h 
of I, rtdy VnleiH ' (Jilderoy." 

Me ♦wrned and walked out c»f the room, while Molly 
Hfttik down III the sofa, a crushed heap of helpless misery. 
And this was what her runaway nuirriage had come to — • 
not four months after her wedding day I 



cried 
tly. 
)r not, 
You 
■cave." 
you," 
ttcr of" 
re her 



CHAPTER XXXHI 

DI.SENCHFNTMFNT. 

TiADY VAt.ENciA Waited and wondered in vain next day, 
when at the hour fixed for the drive Mrs. Hannington did 
not appear. Later in the afternoon a little note from Molly 
reached her, couched in very cold and ambigeous terms. 
The writer was unable to drive out that afternoon, she said ; 
and she neither gave a reason nor expressed any sorrow for 
her defection. This was rather a rude way of treating the 
proiK)BaI, and Lady Val flushed with vexation as she read 
the note. 

•* What does the child mean ? " she said to herself. 
** She seems to have forgotten her manner", — she never was 
distinguished for them, after all." Then came a sharp, 
ntinging thought. " Can she have found out ? — Can he 
have told her that I — that I offered myself to him on his 



II 






238 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



very wedding-day 1* Surely he would not do that. Bad as 
he is," said Lady Val, bitterly, " he would not forget so 
utterly that he loved me once ! " • 

But in spite of these doubts and fears, she turned a 
bright and smiling face on Captain Rutherford when she 
met him at a dance that evening and read the question in 
his eyes that he did not like to put into words. 

" I have called," she said, with a little nod. " I am 
doing my duty, you see." 

" You are the very kindest person in the world, Lady 
Valencia." 

" I'm afraid it won't be of any use, Charlie. She does 
not like me." 

"Oh — impossible!" 

" Quite possible, on the contrary. There are numerous 
people who don't like me," said she, \7\ih a light laugh. 
" Never mind : I will do what I can for b^^r ; and even if 
she does not come to me I'll get some other people to 
call on her, and she can go to their houses. 

" But why shouldn't she like to come to you ? " said 
Charlie, in a puz^^ied tone. 

" Ah, why, indeed ! She associates me a little too much 
with her old home-life, perhaps," said Lady Val, coolly : 
" she used to see me at Torresmuir, and she may think 
that I sympathise too much with her dear little stepmother, 
who is the sweetest and gentlest young thing whom I have 
seen for a long time." 

" Indeed ! I had an idea that the stepmother had been 
imkind to her or something " 

" I don't think Molly told you that ; " said Lady Val, 
with a flash of honest indignation. 

"Oh ; no, no ; she said nothing about her. Some one 
said so at the Club, I believe : I suppose it was a mistake." 

" Quite a mistake. Mrs. Moncrieff is a charming little 
woman, with the kindest heart in the world ; but she was 
not experienced enough to keep a tight hand on her step- 
children. It has been a great trouble to her. But Bertie 
adores her," said Lady Valencia, catching herself up with 
a sense that it was not becoming to talk of the Moncrieflfs* 
affairs to their friend's son, "and I am glad of that, for he 
is really a nice boy, although a little weak in character." 
; " Is he in London ? " 

" He is either come or is coming shortly. You might 
look him up, Charlie j it would be a kindness." 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



W, 



** I sha\i be delighted." 

" I will get his address for you. Keep him out of mis- 
chief, if you can." 

Captain Rutherford was only too pleased to undertake 
the commission. As soon as Bertie was settled in London, 
therefore, he found a very congenial and a very desirable 
friend ready to hand ; and Mr. Moncrieff was grateful to 
young Rutherford for thus making himself known. It had 
been one of Alan Moncrieff 's initial mistakes in the training 
,of his children to keep them secluded from acquaintances : 
. the consequence was that, debarred from suitable friend- 
ships, they had made unsuitable ones for themselves, and 
no lives of both had been darkened and saddened through 
evil influences. Bertie was sincerely anxious to amend his 
ways and regain the confidence of his father ; and it soon 
became a pleasure to him to spend as much of his time as 
possible with a man like Charles Rutherford, whose frank 
and honorable spirit was a perpetual spur and stimulus to 
his own. 

Rutherford's regiment was quartered at Aldershot, but 
he found it easy to get frequent leave, and was as much 
in London as possible. He kept his word to Lady Valen- 
cia, however, and was careful not to go too often to the 
Hanningtons'. He had found it necessary, for his own 
conscience' sake, " to pull up," as he said to himself, ** in 
time." For it was becoming a pain and an irritation to 
him to see Molly's pale and unhappy looks. He still 
maintained that he was interested in her solely because of 
his father's liking for Alan Moncrieff; but it was rather 
'.difficult to continue to look on matters entirely from this 
point of view. To remember that his father and Moncrieff 
of Torresmuir had been schoolfellows together would not 
account for Ihe fact that he could not forget Molly's wistful 
eyes, that her wan face haunted him night and day, and that 
he was possessed with such a desire to do her service that 
he would willingly have gone to the ends of the earth for 
her if she had so desired. 

But it must also be said that Charlie Rutherford's admi- 
ration for Molly was of the purest and most reverential 
kind. If he had never seen her distressed or lonely, he 
might never have thought twice of her, save as an ordinary 
acquaintance : it was just because he had seen tears in her 
eyes, and suspected that her husband neglected her, that 






A40 



TifE LUCK OF THE iroVSE, 



his chivalrous nature was so stirred. He vowed to bchcif 
friend, her brother, to the last day of his life ; and he told 
himself that it was well for her that she should have one 
trusty " servant," to use the parlance of an older world, 
one who would be always faithful and helpful, and ready 
to maintain her cause against all comers. Having made 
up his mind in this way, he did not keep entirely from the 
Hanningtons', as Lady Valencia would have advised him 
to do, but went there discreetly, dining with John Han- 
nington, and even playing cards with him when asked, 
but never for one moment altering the gentle respect of his 
manner towards the woman who — although he hi;rdly knew 
it — now occupied the first position in his heart and mind. 

The summer came to a close, and people began to leave 
town for their holiday rambles. Rutherford was due at 
his father's house before the end of July, and he Wjas going 
to tra"el North with Bertie Moncrieff. Lady Valencia 
Gilderoy was bound for Norway with a select party of 
friends. Charlie came to see the Hanningtons before his 
departure. He wondered what they were going to do : he 
had not heard their plans, and Bertie had been unable to 
give him any information. Bertie was not very fond of 
going to his brother-in-law's apartments. He had dev- 
eloped as strong a disHke to John Hannington as his 
father and his friend had done. 

Captain Rutherford found both husband and wife at 
home. Molly was looking exceedingly white, he thought, 
but she professed herself quite well — only a little tired by 
the heat. Hannington seemed to listen to the visitor's 
remarks with suppressed impatience, and answered almost 
rudely when Charlie once turned towards him. The flush 
of shame or alarm which instantly suffused Molly's pale 
face made the young man indignant for he*r «a'ke, and yet 
all the more anxious to keep the peace. He asked her 
where she was going for the autumn. 

** I don't know yet," she answered, timidly glancing at 
her husband. " We have not decided." 

** It will probably end in our going nowhere at all," said 
Hanrtington, irritably. " And I hope you will like it if wc 
do.'" The last words were addressed to Molly, who again 
fiiished vividly and painfully. 

Charlie began to wish that he had not come. He could 
not run away just yet, however, for Molly had given him 



- 2iIE LUCK OF Til a HOUSE, 



341 



again 



a cup of tea, and he could not put it down untasled. 
John Hannington also seemed to feel some embarrassment 
at the turn the conversation had taken, for he pulled out 
his watch, declaring that he had an important engagement 
to keep, and that he was sorry to say he really must be off. 
And then he quitted the room, but, as Charlie noticed, 
without a word of farewell or apology to his wife. 

It struck Captain Rutherford that these two grew colder 
to each other in manner every time he saw them ; and such 
was indeed nearly the case. For after that revelation 
made by Hannington of the real state of his affections — a 
revelation which she could never feel to be anything but 
unspeakably brutal and degrading to herself — Molly's 
girlish love for her husband had died a painful death. The 
veil of romance was torn from her eyes, and she saw him 
for what he was — or rather, she saw the very worst side of 
him, and nothing else. She was not strong enough by 
nature to dominate :.iid make a fu,irly good man of him, as 
Lady Val had declared to herself that she could have done. 
She was helpless : she trembled before him with the 
nervous timidity which harshness or injustice had always 
excited in her. She saw that he was selfish, sensual, and 
hard ; and she was too much shocked by her discovery to 
look for the few scattered grains of gold which existed in 
the baser metal of his characlcr. It seemed to her that 
her whole life was ruined : she had shattered all possible 
happiness for herself, and she looked for nothing more. 

" You are not really thinking of spending the autumn in 
London, are you ? " Charlie asked, in a tone of dismay, 
when Hannington had lert the room. 

" I don't know," said Molly, faintly. " I expficted " — 
she looked aside, and her voice trembled — " that we should 
go — home. But they — I suppose they have other plan'*," 
. Charlie remembered Bertie had told him th::it the Mon- 
crieffs were going abroad for the months of August and 
September, His heart s^velled with indignation and pity. 
They were going abroad! to enjoy themselves, while she 
was left in the stifling heat of London, without the pros- 
pect of a change of any sort. Had they then no heart ? 

" I hope," Molly went on, " that my husband will go tc 
Scotland by and by. I'm afraid it is my fault that we have 
maiMlged so badly. I misunderstood : I thought that we 
were bure to go to Torresnnir — but the pkcc is to be shut 





i 



9l^i 



f///r t.txA' or- iitr< A/r)rM'. 






up, I linn, rttul -^M \M\\ \\\m\9. Imvr* frtll(Ml. H wrt« whinlrl 
Ml h\r " Willi ,1 iv»Mil< lllllr '^iiiilr " lt» Mifikp till' tnJRlake. 
Alul Jolni 1"^ iiUli«>i W'W'iS 



jllrv MMiiM mil hrtvr ^>M1r rtli»nf1«l H llirV lldil IHuJpf- 
"'Inntl iliiU \\s\\ Hmn^lil nl gnlnji In iIhmm, nl rntifwi-," sfiid 
rli;iiHi\ ifUlin Iml 



r ■: fi 



IrlHr Utm V»'|irtrMin(Jt niilv llif 
otli«>i ilnv ll^f^l y»<<i nniM imi join llinn ni loiU'sninli." 

Mollv i<« pi silrMit «»i iiiul tluilu'irohl mnlili'iilv l»'ll, Willi 
oil! Iiriiiu i<iM, ili:ii Ml Mom lirll niiml \\\\\v Irtilpil, tii- 
vVtMl prtMium irl\lsi'«l, In tl'^k llin mMi in liiw lo 'roiHMtnillt. 
\\v \V\\ :\ii iiiin'imniiiii^ '.\\\^v\ rt(i(iiiml MhIIv'm Irtllin Int 
iinl Iir1piii|4 \sv\ oul nl lu-i ph'm'iil ilillinillv , lli«ni^|i llirh* 
\v:in \\\\% In \\v ^\\\\\, lluti pmlidlilv Alitn Mntunrll tlitl uol 
kiinw 01 il. 

"1 wihIi \ nMiM W \s\ rti\v lirip to you/* srtiil ("lirtvllr, 
\\^\\\\i, lo \[Av lii^ \v\\\\\ \\\\\\ 9>\\S\\As kiioni (^ liow l»» 
v\pii'!^« his \\\^\\v ^oo»l will. 'M'joi I Inkr jinv tnrsHJi^t'a 

— OV 0\ p.llrrU 01 :111\lllil1|i lo Srolltlliil i^ " 

" No. lh;ink \o\i. KrHit- will l;lki- IllilU'.'* Slir lookt'il 
\ip ;it him l^1111li11^, ;iml llu'11 lii'i oNrs su«I«UmiIv IUUhI Willi 
UMVs. 'M>li. Srotljiii«i, Av\\\ S« olliiiul I *' slu' iiiinniiUTtl. 
"v^li. i1 oiih \ \\v\x Roiii^ liiirk ! H oiilv I « ouM sim' ii 
.■ijiN'Oiii r* S\\\\ ihni sill' rovriril lin Uwv Willi \\v\ lifiiul«<, 
;n\x\ hiosi imo low. noiiiiiloiis !<ohs ihttl vpiil Ihe liHlonet's 

ho.lH. 

rhrtvlio riMlh^ 1101 W;\\ \\ TIliMV WTtV Iwo lliiiigs ho 
rxN\iK\ i^s \w \\\\\\\\ lliiifi IwlURrll (il lltM lorl rtiul W^ l\pr 
^\\M h> rV\A 01 XW" \\s\\\y\ l.lkr lip IllH lldl rtiul Wsllk Oil! ol llu* 

^xNOiw hkr .1 ImiOo, ;is ho iol«l hiiusoH .-inoiwiinlpi imlig 
'i>rtlNOv \\\\\ \\W tOii'ilol rtlUMi\rtliVO Wouhl hrtve Im'»»11 
N\>>VM\ Uo yxS\\\x\ \W\\A h,1Vl» 0011\0 IIIIO Mollv's piVHf^lU 

i\i^i\\\\ \\ ho h;i<l so \m loigxMioii luM (liunitv .iiul Iiir own 
m.mhooxl Uo w;^lko\\ shrtighi oui \>{ I no vooiu ami inlo 
tho M^xv<, \\h\i\^ 1x^1 i\ miiwuo ho rIooiI looliiiji ivIiRohitply 
sh'k With p,\ii\ ol hoiivu Iwil knowing in \\ \\'Afx\{ roiI of 
>\"M' thrtt hx^ h.ui won ;i \ixloi>. Il was not his \>Mi to 
tx>mioi< Mis. t^.inninmon in hov tixwiMos. 



\\\\\ \w songlx x>u< 1^01110. M\\\ .il\or son\o oimunloo 



n 



thNW, m>pusM\t l>is \iows upon his inimt rts livr nslu* oonhl 
^i^> s\> withxwn ho(v,vvin^ how- xtxvpiv ho was rometnrd. 
IVvtio hx\iix< ,in\t nn\Kisix>xHt. Aiut whon, rt low dayH 
V^tx^v, he wvnt xh>wn h> t\>ivosnniir, he vsumnumrct up 
wMiv.i^ix^ onoiigh to ji\> to his l(\ihcr m\\\ ask point Miink 



iVk LVCk Of^ INK tioustt, 



Hi 



tlirtt Hrtfltiln^JMM h»ifl «<fii»l tlwil lliry wrrr K'lifi^ lo wtny in 
l.nfifltMt ft!) til*' MUftmili. 

"I ttltl MMf ktifiw fUJvtlilii(4 Mltfnil if/' «5rtifl Mr Mofl^^i^f^, 
loMklii^ «^l(tHl»-«l »hh1 jininrMl. '• Slir Hirl wriff, iiinfin^ ffint 
«Ih« wmimM llh' f«» (fun^ IM tiM, liiit 1 iliouglif tlifll li»' woiHd 
tmt <rtf»' fn Itiifi^ liff liorr «o Mfioti. Why /ir^* Mify not 
utiiMtt inVMV ? rh«'V <rtnn(»t li»' ifi WMJit of fiifHl«i, qurc ly : 

Alollv ItJtM llff (MVtl iiiuMcy " 

Mf'ffii' i»oli(p«l llifil Hm» Mrtiiir-, fto long iifiM|if»kpfi, frll 
tiMdiDilly ftdiii liiM lip!«, itH tliougli it htid liceti rriiich in )ii» 
Ihoiight 



II 



I ♦•uppi't tlirti llipyilo WfJMt iMonry. Hnfiningtori livci 



Iti rtii t'ljitfivMgMiit wfiy — he sprfMlR frrrly. 

" All. M«* gMMiliIri, pfrl»np«." 

" I Ill'lipVr' III- ♦1(M'«." 

•' Iff ItM! Iinl indlircil V'OH to ]ni»i liln>, luiM fir, lltrti*' ? " 
TIh" ImIIwm'm voi« «• trJMtiMcH ji littlr n'^ he Hpokc ; tluii he 
MihlfMl h.Hlily, " hoii'l think I tnr>iti to Niopec t yon. I 
know I hiivc tt tettflpncy to be stinpirions, hut I «h»hrhcvf, 
Ml tho bottom of my \wn\\, thnt I mny tnist y(Mi, my 
U»y 



'\%\\ JM m«»rp than I hnvc miy right to rxpeit," srti<l 



MrHir, humbly. yf»t munfnlly tot 



II 






\ 



givo yon my wor( 



if yon will trtkn il. sir, thnt I hnvc not phiyrd for mom-y 
MJtito I wiMtt to li«m<lfm, »nn1 thnt I ni'ver will. \ know f 
rjin'l Rlund it ; the rxi itrmrnt grt«i inlo my veins like frrf. 
I hnvo tfiknn rt plrdgr of rtbHtineMict* from nny sort of 
gambling." 

" I f»m only too glrt«l to In'ftr if," sni*! Mon< ricff. He 
fitirlrhrMl »»nt his hund, whirh hrrtic took rngerly and 
Wrtimly. " I'lune hns been misehief wronght in onr family 
by the gtimbling instinrt already, and f should be sorry to 
think thftt it wns iidierited by ycm. Now about yrmr sister. 
It is no use, I sitpprise, to juit 'IVirresmuir at their servi(C 
lot rt eouple nf months ? Shall I send her a < heque, and 
tell her t<» go where she likes ? 



♦• 



Thnt wtndd be a splendid ]dan 
Mr. M<uiei'iefr wasted no more time, lie sat down and 
(piietly wiote a c hecpu\ whi( h he tlnui handed to his scm, 
who was gratified and astounded at its ninoimt. " Father, 
you are very good to iis," he sai<l, raising his eyes to 
Alan's face with a look which his father found very satis- 
factory. 



i 



: 



\ H 



I 



«44 



THE LVCK OF rnE\tWVSE, 



"Do you think it will be enough?" 
"Write to her yourself and send it. 



said Moncrieff 



•• \xxi yoH not going to write? " 

«« Well— no." 

"You have written to her, father, have you not?" — 
Bertie realised, with an odd duill, as he asked the ques- 
tion, that his old fear of his father had gone for ever. A 
year ago he could not have spoken as freely and aa frankly 
as he did now. 

•• 1 have written once — a short letter. lUit I would 
rather not, IJertie. You can give her my love. Tell her 
to make what use of the money she chooses." 

Bertie did not venture to remonstrate : the way in 
which his father answered showed him one thing, that 
although Molly had been formally pardoned and very 
generously treated, she was not yet truly and tenderly 
forgiven. 

He could not resist seeking his stepmother in order to 
make her a partaker in his gladness at the unexpected 
success with which he had met. He found her in the 
drawing-room — alone, as usual, with a book in her hand — 
and he poured his story eagerly into her ear. 

'• My father is awfully good to us," he wound up, in 
boyish fashion. *• And we've behaved abominably to him. 
Isn't he good, Stella ? " He always called her Stella now : 
she was too dear to him to be called Mrs. Moncrieff; too 
young for the title of " mother." 

" Yes, he is very good," said Stella, dreamily. And 
then she sighed. 

" He has not quite forgiven Molly, though. He will — 
some day, will he not ? " , 

" Surely," she answered. 

" Can't you persuade him, Stella?" ! 

** No, dear, no." \ 

*' But you want him to forgive her? " 

** Ah, yes, indeed." 

" If he won't do it for you, he won't do it for anybody 
in the world," said Bertie, quickly. 

Her fair face flushed : she looked at him with a question 
in her eye. '* Of course," the lad wont on, (juite uncon- 
scious oi' the effect that he was producing, *' he thinks more 
of you and your o])inion than of any other in the world." 

♦* Oh, hush, Bcrlie, hush ! " 



TttE iircK or rnn ttousit. 



«4< 



" Yoti don't think t mind, do yon?" snid the lad, with 
nn .unused langh. " I'm only too ghid that he has some- 
body to (are for." 

•' I did i-t know — \ did not think " 

"That he showed it so nun h ?" happily misiinder 
standing iier. " Hut he makes it plain lf»the whole house- 
hold. He never takes his eyes off you when you are in 
the room." 

•' You silly hoy I " said Stella, turning away. " He does 
nothing of the kind." 

But in s[)itc of herself she felt a curious warmth and stir 
of pleasure at her heart. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 



THE END OF IT. 






Mr. and Mrs. Hannington found the cheque sent by 
Alan MoncriefT very acceptable indeed. Most of it went 
for John Hannington's delectation, it was true ; but Molly 
got some sea-breezes, and was glad that her husband was 
m better temper than he had been for some time. They 
came back to town late in September, and removed into 
a small furnished house which they took for a few months. 
Bertie returned to London in October, and of course he 
went to see his sister ; but no confidences passed between 
them. He thought that Molly looked very far from 
strong, but he took her word for it when she said that she 
was well. She would not talk about herself at all, and 
questioned him eagerly respecting Torrcsmuir and his own 
doings. And Bertie was in an unusually bright mood : 
he had had a pleasant holiday, and was much gratified by 
a proof of trust which his father had given him. The 
clergyman at whose house he had been quartered had fal- 
len ill, and was unable to receive him. Bertie had there- 
fore gone into lodgings, and went, as he informed Molly, 
" to a crammer's" every day, " as other fellows did." It 
was quite plain that he considered it a delightful novelty 
to be allowed this form of independence, and possibly his 
father had seen that it would do him good. 

Molly listened to his story, smiled at his harmless 






a46 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



1: 



vanity, and promised, almost witli her old gaiety, t' take 
tea with him some afternoon at his lodgings. She made a 
careful note of the address ; but as the weeks wore on, 
Bertie found that she made no exertion to come and sec 
him : she looked whit« and more worn than ever, and 
once even burst into tears as he kissed her, and begged 
him not to visit her again. John did not like it. 

" He is a perfect brute," said Bertie, recounting this 
incident to Captain Rutherford one evening — without 
any thought of breach of confidence, for by this time he 
was in the habit of pouring out all his thoughts quite 
freely to his friend. " I wish we had never seen him." 

Rutherford did not speak, but he mentally re-echoed 
the wish. 

" It's impossible for her to be very happy with him," 
Bertie went on, vehemently. " Why, he is away from 
her more than half of his lime. I don't think London 
suits her, either. I wish we could get her back to Tor- 
rcsmuir, and pension him off, somehow." 

Charlie smiled at this boyish simplicity. " She might 
not approve," he said, briefly. 

" I should think that she would be very glad. How 
the wind blows to-night 1 Is it raining, or freezing, or any- 
thing ? " 

"Raining, I think. It is warmer than usual for the 
end of November." 

He started a little as he spoke, for at that moment a 
loud knock was heard at the front door. 

** Christmas will be here directly," said Bertie, with the 
air of one who makes a wise remark. •' Now, if I can get 
my father to ask Molly to spend Christmas with us " 

" What's that ? " said Rutherford, suddenly. There 
was a startled look in his eyes. Bertie listened. Voices 
were heard in the passage, and steps, and opening doors. 
Something unexpected had evidently happened in the 
house. 

Bertie's landlady now presented herself, with a puzzled 
face. 

" There^s a lady wanting to see you, sir," she said, 
doubtfully, and, before she could explain, a wild looking, 
wet, bedraggled figure had stumbled rather than walked 
into the room. Both young men sprang to their feet 
with an exclamation of dismay. For it was Molly who 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



347 



stood before them, and who, after a moment's pause, 
threw herself into Bertie's arms and burst out sobbing 
upon his shoulder. 

" I've ( omc to you : I had nowhere else to go," she 
panted. * He's turned nic out — turned me out into the 
street I " 

*' Molly I not your husband ? " 

" Yes, my husband," she said, with passionate emphasis, 
lifting her head and showing her flushed we I face ; "the 
husband for whom I deceived my father and left my home I 
Oh, they can't say that I have not been punished now 1 " 

She had no hat or bonnet on her head, and her hair 
was darkened and straight'jned by the rain-drops that had 
fallen upon it. A great cloak had been wrajiped around 
her j but, drop[)ing loosely from her shoulders, it showed 
that .she was in evening dres.s — asoft primrose-colo" d silk 
which left her white neck and arms bare save for some 
softly clustering laces and pearl ornaments. 

" But you have not come like this 1 You have not 
walked ! " cried Bertie. 

I had no money." 
I could have paid a cabman at the door I To 
think of you walking through the streets at this time of 
night like this " 

" Oh, it's nothing : I did not ^mind that," said Molly, 
wearily. She disengaged her arms from her brother's 
neck and sank into the nearest chair. Then, for the 
irst time, she became aware of Captain Rutherford's pre- 
sence. But nothing seemed to startle her. She looked 
up at him with a passionately pleading expression which 
struck him dumb. "I can't help it I" she broke out. 
" You need not condemn me a second time ! It is not my 
fault." 

" Molly, Molly, hush » Why should Charlie Rutherford 
condemn you ? " said Bertie, in his bewilderment. " He 
is only sorry for you — as I am — as we all " 

" Are you sorry for me ? " said the girl. " Oh, that 
is perhaps the worst of it ! That you should all have to be 
sorry for me — and I was once so proud and so light- 
hearted and 3o sure of my own good fortune. And what 
am I to do now ? " 

"Is there nothing that we can do for you ? " said 
Rutherford, in a choked voice. " If you could only make 



"Yes 
"But 



■) 






24^ 



run ircK or tue nousE. 



\x\v \\%v\\\\ ". Nou t oulil send nie nnywherc or tell mc lo 
do anythnv; lor yo\i '* 

" riurcs ihai tvllow to l)e punished!" Bertie burst 
out in a lury. " I'll go niyself—I'll telegraph to father — 
he deserves a thorough horse-whipping." 

Chiirlie Kvithefbrd wished ih.U the hoy had held his 
t»)ngue. He ngreed with the senlitnent, hut thought it 
wo\dd have been hitter to leave it unexpressed until 
punishment had been inllieted. lie was afraid of the 
cffeet on Molly's mind. John Hannington would have 
had a very poor < hanre indeed if he had been i»ist then 
at the merry of these two indignant, hot headed, hot- 
blooded young men. i\nd the knowledge of this was sud- 
denly reveale«l to Molly, in her newly purchased wisdom 
of womanhvnxl : the knowledge of the harm and the scan- 
dal and the di.sgr.Mc which were impending, and which she, 
and she only, could aveit. 

She looked from one to the other, and then, moved l;y 
a sudden impulse, she gave her h;md first to her brother 
for a moment, and then to Rutherford. 

" Vou are both kind - -both my friends," she said ; '* and 
I shall trust you both. But there is nothing for you to 
do. Neither of you must lay a finger on my husband. 
If you do, 1 will never speak to you again." 

Charlie flushed up : IJertie gave a quick, sharp excla- 
mation of disgust. 

'* That's a woman's view : a girl's view," he said. " We 
cannot — I cannot ])romise to sit down and do nothing." 

" Vou are imly a boy," said Molly, with a little gasp 
which was perha])s meant for a sort of laugh ; and you 
cannot do anything yourself. And it is not Captain 
Rutherford's business. I shall leave everything to my 
father. 1 shall teli him all. He will know what must be 
done." 

" Shall 1 telegraph to him for you ? " said Charlie, 
quickly. 

" Thank you. Yes — directly. Wait a moment. You 
must not think things worse than they are. 1 provoked 
him — and he had taken too much wine.'' She began to 
tremble as she spoke. " 1 reproached him with — with 
one or two things that he had told me, and he grew very 
angry; and then I told him of one wicked, foolish, mis 
ehicvous thing that I had done — I took some letters of 



THE trek or- riH: nocsK. 



M9 



his onn*, and st-nt tlirtn nw.-iv to a pcrsof^ wlio- oh, I 
r.iii't tell it ycMi iill, Imt I ;w t<.'<l very l»iiflly, atifl in my "wn 
MMf^cr I told liiin »>f it f<»r the (iist iiiiu'. V'ou sec he had 
Hoine right in \\v anf^»-v. Mr 'lid not know what he was 
doin^ I am snrr he (li<l n»»t, lor he had never stniik me 
before 

'' Strut k yon? Molly. Molly!" 

As if" inv(»lnntarily, she glam e»l at her arm, frotn whieh 
the cittak had slipped down. There was a hrnise n[»on 
the slender wrist. She drew her draperies over it, and 
held them there while she went oti. 

" He did not know, he was never nnkiinl in that way 
before. Ihit he was mad with aiiger and with what he 
had drunk, and he took me l»y the shouhlers and put me 
out at the door, and said that I should never darken his 
house again. I snatched tij) this < loak as I went throtigh 
the outer hall. I Iclicvc he meant to take me in again, 
for when I had gone down the road a little way, I heard 
him open the door again and rail me. Ihit I was frighten- 
ed~-so frightened that I ran on and on ; and I a.sked my 
way of a poli<:eman, and at last I got here." 

Charlie Rntherfoid's face was white with rage. 

" Look," he said to Jlertie, abruptly. ** I am going. 
Your sister should not sit in her wet things, (let your 
landlady to attend to her. I'll telegraph to your father in 
your name." 

" Wait, please," said Molly. It was strange to hear the 
decision that had come into her fresh young voice. " Come 
here for one minute, Captain Rutherford. You say you 
will be my friend ? " 

" Always." 

"Then please go to the telegrajjh office, and send a 
message from fiie, not from Hertie. ' I have no home now ; 
may I come to you to-morrow ? * That is all that I want 
to say in a telegram, i do not think that my father will 
refuse to take me in." 

"No. No, indeed." '' 

" And then, Captain Rutherford, you will go straight 
home, will you not? And you will see me off with Bertie 
to-morrow morning ? 1 shall start at ten o'clock, whetlwrr 
I hear from my father or not. /\nd you will do nothing 
else ? " 

He was obligea to promise that he would do nothing 



1 



250 



THE LVCK OF THE HOUSE, 



else. He saw that she was afraid lest he might try to 
precipitate matters — see John Hannington, perhaps, and 
be unable to control his indignation. And her look of 
relief and gratitude was the more pronounced because she 
had suffered a moment's fear when she saw his stern, set 
face. 

It was not very late, and lie was able to telegraph at 
once. He know that the message would not reach Torres- 
muir until the morning, as the house was some distance 
from the telegraph office : nevertheless, he felt a sense of 
having accomplished something when it was despatched. 
And then he wondered restlessly whether Hertie was look- 
ing well after his sister — whether the landlady would give 
her dry clothes and warm drinks and a comfortable room — 
and he wished with all his heart that his mother had been 
in London then, so that he might send her to Molly's aid. 
For Lady Rutherford was a kind-hearted woman, and would 
have come at a moment's notice to the daughter of her old 
friend Alan Moncrieff. 

There was Lady Val ! would not she be of use ! She 
was always kind-hearted — but Mrs. Hannington did not 
like her, and, as Charlie knew, the two had now not met 
for some months. It certainly might be a good thing to 
let Lady Valencia know the truth of the story. She could 
be trusted absolutely to speak or to hold her tongue in the 
right place. But how could he find her at ten or eleven 
o'clock at night? She would probably be out. At any 
rate, he might try. And so, after some hesitation, Charlie 
jumped into a hansom, and gave the man Lady Valencia's 
address. 

Wonder of wonders, she was not out. She had had one 
or two visitors, but they were departing when Charlie's 
card was brought to her. Under his name he had written 
in pencil a brief request that he might see her alone for 
two minutes "on important business." Lady Val laughed 
a little over the card, and called him a dear impulsive boy, 
in her own heart. And then she went down to the little 
library into which she was told that he had been shown. 
She found him pacing up and down the room like a wild 
beast in a cage, and a glance at his face told her that there 
was something seriously wrong indeed. 

She had not long to wait. He poured his story into hti 
ear without a moment's delay. And he cculd not accu:! 



TItR I.UCK OF THE HOUSE. 



«5t 



her of want of sympathy. He had never seen her face 
change as it chanj^ed when she heard what John Hanning- 
ton had done. The color went out of it completely : she 
sat looking at him helplessly, with ashen lips, like some 
ghost of her brilliant self. 

** And you have telegraphed to the Moncrieffs ? " she said, 
slowly. 

" I have. She says that'''shc will start in the morn'ng." 

" Is she strong enough to do that ? " 

" I don't see what else she can do. She cannot stay 
with Bertie. She cannot go back to her husband." 

" No, indeed ! " And the color rushed oack to Valen- 
cia's face in a full, warm tide. " She had better stay at 
Torresmuir, poor child. Well, Charlie? Why did you 
come to me ? " 

" I thought you might help her, I.ady Valencia," said 
the young man, meekly. *' I suppose she has no gowns 
or things. I don't know. It seemed better that some 
other woman should know all about it." 

"You are a sensible boy, Charlie." Lady Val's voice 
had grown natural again, but her eyes were unusually 
bright. " I shall go round to her at eight o'clock to- 
morrow morning and see what I can do. It is no use 
going to-night." 

" I did right in coming to you, then? It wps the oniy 
thing I could think of." 

" Perfectly right. I am always ready to help the Han- 
ningtons when I can." 

" Mrs, Hannington," said Charlie, significantly. 

Lady Val looked at him keenly. " And Mr. Hannington 
too. Don't you see that the poor, miserable man wants 
help even more than Molly does ? There, you don't under- 
stand. Never mind, Charlie, I will do my best for her. 
Good-night." 

The dismissa. was a trifle abrupt, out Charlie did not 
care. He had got all he wanted, and he was ready to go. 
He knew that Lady Val was a woman of her word, and 
that she would be as a tower of strength to the grieving, 
heart-broken, childish Molly. 

What he did not know — what he never imagined — was 
the silent anguish in which Valencia Gilderoy spent the 
hours of the night. There could be no greater pain for 
her than to witness the gradual declension of the man who 



|i 



252 



THE LUCK OP THE HOtTSM. 



had been first ner pl.iymate, then her friend, and then her 
lover. She could bear to be parted from him : she could 
bear to think that he loved another: she felt as if she 
could not bear to know that he was so unworthy of any 
good woman's love. 

But no traces of her vigil were visible on the bright face 
that presen^^ed itself next morning in Molly's bed-chamber. 

" My dear," she said, putting her arms round Molly's 
neck at once, " I know you don't much like me ; but you 
must put up with me and let me help you if I can. Charlie 
Rutherford came to me last night." 

Molly resisted for a moment, but womanly affection was 
very sweet to her, and there was something in Lady Val's 
face and manner which compelled confidence. She let 
herself be kissed, and then burst into tears on her visitor's 
shoulder. 

" Don't cry, child," said Lady V al at last. " You had 
much better go home and take care of yourself. Or — will 
you come to me for a few days ? " 

" No, no. You are very good — out I want so much to 
go home ! " 

" Very well. Then I will go with you." 

" You ? " said Molly, lifting a quivering face and startled 
eyes to her interlocutor. " You ? Why ? " 

"Because I don't think you are old enough '.r wise 
enough to travel alone, my dear ; and I don't call even 
Bertie a sufficient protector. Nobody can say a word 
against you if I am with you, Molly." 

The eyes of the two women met. There was a little 
silence, and then Molly held out her hand. " I was unjust 
to you in my thoughts : forgive me," she said. 

" What did you think of me then ^ " . 

"Oh, I can't tell you — I can't." 

" 7 can guess, my dear. You thought that I wanted to 
take ; our husband's heart from you. Is that not so? You 
were mistaken, Molly : I have prayed every night and 
morning for the last year that he might always love you as 
you loved him. I had no stronger wish than that you two 
might be happy. Won't you trust me, Molly ? " 

And Molly, looking into Lady Valencia's honest eyes, 
said fervently. 

" Indeed I will." - i^ 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



253 



'"^i^g^ 



Chapter xxxv. 



LADY VAL TO THE RESCUE! 



The telegram which reacned Bertie's lodgings just before 
the travellers left the house was from Stella Moncriefif. 
" Come at once," it said. " Your father is away, but I am 
sure that he will welcome you." 

" Oh, I wish that he had been at home," sighed Molly. 
*' I wish that there had been a message from himself." 

She was very white and nervous, and had to be reassured 
by Bertie and Lady Valencia as to her father's kind inten- 
tions towards her before she could proceed. Lady Val 
had sent for a medical man in order to convince herself 
that Molly was able to take so long a journey ; but when 
she described the mode in which the journey would be 
made, the doctor smiled and said that it could not possibly 
hurt her in the least. Lady Val was accustomed to travel 
in a luxurious way, and she did not mean that Molly 
should suffer from over-fatigue or over-exertion. And 
unlimited means can make a good deal of difference to the 
effect of a journey upon a delicate woman. 

So Molly travelled North in state, like a young princess, 
but she took small note of her surroundings, and lay back 
on her cushions with face averted, doing little but weep 
silently all the day. Lady Val insisted on staying the 
night in Edinburgh and telegraphing again to Stella as to 
the hour of their arrival on the following afternoon, and it 
was perhaps well that she did so. For Molly was very 
tired at the end of the day, and Lady Valencia felt that 
she had taken rather a heavy responsibility upon her 
shoulders. 

It was not until four or five o'clock on the following day, 
therefore, that the little party made its appearance at the 
doors of Torresmuir. A sad little party, indeed ! For 
Molly, the once merry, high-spirited girl, had come back 
a crushed and broken-hearted woman ; and Bertie was 
bowe4 dowq by sympathy for her troubles, and Lady Val 



,«' ! 






254 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



had sorrows of her own. And Stella, who received them, 
also had her share of grief, and looked as if she had spent 
many hours of weariness and anxiety during the year that 
had elapsed since Molly's marriage. 

No question was asked or answered at first. Molly fell 
into Stella's arms as naturally as if sb ^ had been a child 
coming home to her mother, and Stella folded her close to 
her breast, as if she could not bear to let her go. There 
was some sweetness to be got out of this sad home-coming, 
after all. And then Molly had to be put to bed, and com- 
forted and tended, and it was touching to see bow gentle 
she had grown, how grateful for words and deeds of love. 
Stella was almost frightened by the change in her. She 
could hardly believe that Molly was once more before her 
— once more in her arms. And, indeed, this softened, 
spiritualised, sorrowing woman, whose soul seemed to 
look out from the wistful eyes as from a prison whence it 
would fain escape, was not the buoyant, unchastened 
Molly of ancient days. 

" You will forgive me, will you not ? " Molly whispered, 
with her arms round Stella's neck, before she had been in 
the house five minutes. "Will you forgive me — every- 
thing?" ... 

** My darling, yes." 

" Even — about those letters ? " 

" I had forgotten them. They did no harm." 

" But I meant them to do hax-m. Oh, say that you for- 
give me ! " 

" I do, dear Molly, from the very bottom of my heart." 

And then Molly drew a long breath and lay bacl^ con- 
tent. But she was too weary to say much ; and she soon 
fell into a sleep of utter exhaustion, and could be left in 
the care of a maid, while Stella provided for Lady Val- 
encia's comforts, and held a private conference with 
Bertie. 

She was not on very familiar terms with Lady Val, and 
had been startled to hear of her visit. She was grateful 
for Lady Val's care of Molly, but she felt that she did not 
understand it, and supposed that it would have to go 
unexplained, in common with many other things.^ But 
Lady Val was not minded to have it so. Later in the 
evening, she begged her hostess to sit with her for a little 
while over her bedroom fire, so that she might talk with 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



^^% 



her before going to rest. Stella came willingly ; yet she 
was conscious of a certain fear of what Lady Val was 
going to say. For Lady Val was not apt to mince matters, 
and there was no knowing what view she would take of 
John Hannington's delinquencies. 

So Stella, with her pretty golden hair all down her 
back, rested by the fire, and waited rather nervously for 
her visitor's communications. Lady Val sat on a stool, 
almost at Stella's feet — for Mrs. Moncrieff had been 
installed in a great chintz-covered chair, which Lady Val 
called the seat of honor — and for some time did not speak 
at all. 

" I am going to make a general confession to you, Mrs. 
Moncrieff," she said at last. " Or — may I not call you 
Stella, as Bertie does ? I should like to, if you will let 
me ; and I hope you will reciprocate, and call me Val." 

" I shall be very glad." 

" It is about Molly and Jack Hannington that I want 
to talk. You know that he is one of my oldest acquaint- 
ances, perhaps." 

" I have heard so." 

" Yes, we knew each other very well, Jack and I," said 
Lady Val, leaning her chin on her clasped hands and gaz' 
ing thoughtfully into the fire. " We were playmates, com- 
panions, friends — lovers, afterwards ; and enemies now, I 
am afraid. No, not enemies ; I can never be Jack's 
enemy, although he is mine and Molly's and yours, and 
his own to boot." 

Stella had started slightly at the word " lovers," but she 
did not speak. 

"Jack Hannington," Lady Val went on, **has a heart, 
though you may not think it. I am going to tell you 
something, Stella, that I have never told to mortal ears 
before ; because I want you to understand his position a 
little better. He has a heart, and he has — or had — some 
sort of a conscience ; but both, I acknowledge, are in a 
bad way. He was brought up to be a rich man and he 
was made a poor one by the fraud and trickery of a near 
relative — it is that which ruined him. He got into debt ; 
he was in constant difficulties, and the one thing that 
everybody pressed upon him was the necessity that he was 
under to make a wealthy marriage." 

" It does not seem to me/' said Stella, as Lady Valencia 



asfi 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



ii 



paused, " that you have chosen a very opportune moment 
for his defence." 

Lady Val's eyes suddenly flashed. " Why not ? " she 
said. ** This is just inc very time, in my opinion. He 
has thoroughly disgraced himself; nobody will ever forget, 
who hears the story, that he turned his wife out of doors 
on a stormy night in November : even the world, which is 
so ready to pardon, will not pardon that. Is it not the 
very time, then, for a true friend to say what she can in 
his defence ? " 

" You are right," said Stella, with a sigh, " and I was 
ungenerous. But when I think of what Molly suff'ers " 

** We have all suffered," said Lady Val, who always 
laughed when other people would have cried, ''all suffered 
at Jack's hands, have we not? My dear, don't look so 
shocked ; I don't mean to be flippant ; but " — taking 
Stella's hand caressingly — " is it not true ? You were 
engaged to him for a little while, I believe ? And he broke 
it off " 

" Did he tell you ? " 

" I gathered it chiefly for myself, by putting two and 
two together. He proposed to you because he thought 
you were rich, and then when he found you were not he 
broke off the engagement. Was it not so? Well, you 
were lucky. With poor Molly he thought that he had 
found a prize. And she is not so rich as he fancied, and 
he is disappointed." 

" I was not his wife ; he had a right to break off his 
engagement with me if he chose. I am very thankful now 
that it happened so," said Stella, the color rising in her 
cheeks. " But that is no excuse for his treatment of 
Molly." 

" Of course it isn't. I am not making excuse for it. 
I only want you to understand him a little better. Let 
me tell you what happened to myself, Stella. Whe»"» we 
were boy and girl we loved each other : yes, he loved i..e, 
little as you may think that he knew how to lo~'e ; and we 
hoped at one time that we should be able to marry. But 
the everlasting money question rose up. He had a pit- 
tance, and so had I ; but even the two together were not 
thought enough to justify us in marrying. So our parents 
kept us apart until we had grown more sensible. When 
wc were a little older, we made love as a sort of joke 



The lock of the novsE. 



^57 



Tient 

she 
He 

)rgct, 
ioors 
ich is 
It the 
an in 

I was 

,]ways 
iffered 
»ok so 
taking 
were 
; broke 



vo and 

bought 

not he 

11, you 

e had 

d, and 

off his 

Iful now 

in her 

ent of 



whenever we saw each other ; hut we had not the least 
serious thought of marrying. I used always to advise 
him to marry for money : 1 used to point out rich heiresses 
to him, and plan good matches for him till i was tired. 
I advised him to follow uj) his accpiaintancc with you, I 
remember. That does not vex you now^ does it ? " 

" Not in the least." 

•' I have often thought," said Lady Val, breaking off her 
reminiscences, and looking reflectively into the fire again, 
** that all our miseries came from our worldliness. If, a 
few years ago, he and I had had the pluck to say, * we'll 
go out into the world together and work for a Hving : we 
will be economical and laborious, and love one another,' 
how much we should all have been saved ! Molly would 
be still a child at Torresmuir : you, Stella dear, would not 
have had the pain which I know you suffered once ; and 
1 — I — I might have been a happy wife and mother, and 
my i)oor Jack a good man after all ! You remember 
Browning's lines — 

* This could have happened but once, 
And we missed it, lost it for over.' 

By our own fault, too. We were worldly, cowardly, and 
base ; and we reap exactly what we have sown." 

Her dark eyes were softened beneath a mist of tears. 
Stella put her hand care ,; ingly round her neck, and for 
a few moments they were iient. Then Valencia brushed 
away her tears and f^niiled. 

" I don't often lapse into the moralising vein, I fancy ; 
and no doubt you have had enough of it. L6t me come 
back to the relation of my experiences. I heard that 
Jack was making love by stealth to Molly, and I told you 
of it, thinking to put you on your guard. Jack was too 
clever for you, Stella. He got Molly away and married 
her. And I, like the great fool I was, thought that as I 
had warned you, the matter was settled, and so deferred 
to tell Jack of the prospect of wealth that was just then 
before me. If I had told him in time, I don't think that 
it is d<;rGgatory to Molly to say that he would have 
broken with her at once as he did with you. But, unfortu- 
nately, I did not see him early enough. I met him one 
day in Glasgow, and persuaded him to have tea with me 
while I told him my news. I was rich — I could give 



i])! 



TTfP: TVCK OF Tim HOUSR. 



him everything he wanted, and I loved htm : would he 
marry me ? That was, in effect, what I said to him, 
Stella, and you can guess what answer I got for my pains." 

" It was too late ? " ' 

'• He had married Molly that morning." 

" And then ? " 

•• Then ! What was there to do but to say good-bye ?'* 

" Was he so faithful to Molly ? " 

" Oh, Stella, you are a witch ! — I suppose if \ had been 
weak, he would have been weak too — and cursed me for 
it afterwards. Men are like that, you know. They 
always say, ' The woman teni[)ted me,' as soon as the 
apple turns to ashes in their mouths. That is all I can 
tell you. We did say good-bye, and — we are here." 

'• You must have been very brave, dear," said Stella, 
softly. 

*• Brave ? Not I. But ^ was angry, which did as well. 
The upshot of all this is, Stella, that Molly has got wind 
of my love for Jack, and that it has he'ped to cause her 
unhappiness. I am sure of that ; although we have jri/V/ noth- 
ing. You know how things are understood without saying, 
amongst women. But she is needlessly unhappy about 
it ; and I want her to know that since that day I have 
never spoken to her husband — never seen him, save at a 
distance. Don't you think it wo\ild be well if she knew 
this ? " 

" It might be. But it is a dithcult matter to speak of — 
unless she were to mention it." 

" I don't suppose she will ever do that," said Lady 
Valencia, with a sigh. A few minutes' silence followed, 
and then, rousing herself, she added more briskly, *' I'm 
an old friend of the family, Stella, and therefore I dare 
ask questions which nobody else can put. What makes 
Alan Moncrieff so unforgiving to his ])retty daughter ? 
Why have not she and Jack made their footing good here ? 
It is a little mysterious to me." 

Stella blushed vividly. " I cannot tell you," she said. 

•' There was something beside the mere running away, 
then ? I thought there must be. That was hardly enough 
to account for the long estrangement. But I suppose I 
am not to ask ? " 

" I think not — please." 
As I have so much interest in all of you, I almost 



i( 



t< 



77//? /7Y'A' or firr notfst^.. 



«iO 



(1 he 

him, 

una." 



I been 
ne for 

They 
IS the 

I can 

Stellft, 

18 well, 
t wind 
use her 
id noth- 
saying, 
r about 
I have 
ive at a 
le knew 

ak of— 



ie said, 
[g away, 
enough 
ijjpose I 



think tliat I ovight to know," said I.ady Val, carclfssly. 
" However, it is, ol Course, for you to dec idf. I know a 
case in point ; a girl who eU)ped niul took her mother's 
jewels with her, and what's the matter ? " 

Stella had beentmahle to conceal a little shiver, a slight 
twitch of the fnigers, whii h told the keen witted Lady Val 
half if not ;dl the story. 

" You were not born for a < onspirator," she said, 
shrewdly. " 1 have guessed it, have \ ? Somehow, I did 
not think that either of them would do that. You had 
better tell me all the story, Stella." 

•* 1 cannot believe it either," said Stella, "neither does 
liertie. Hut Alan forbaile us to (piestion Molly, and we 
have no means of getting at the truth. I will tell you the 
whole, as you have guessed so much." 

Lady Valencia listened attentively while the story was 
told. 

•• I know very little of Mr. Kingscott," she said at its 
close, '* but it .sounds to me as if he knew more than he 
chose to say. Do you trust him ? " 

♦• 1 cannot." 

" Mr. Moncrieff does? " 

'• Perfectly." 

" It will be rather hard lo disentangle the truth. May 
1 try my hand at it, Stella ? " 

•' I cannot give you i)ermission : you must ask my 
husband." 

•* Very well. When will your husband be back ? " 

•* The day after to-morrow. Ibit 1 am afraid that he 
will not allow you to speak to h'im about it — he feels it so 
deeply " 

•'Then I won't speak to him about it. I'll act without. 
I'll take all the responsibility on my own shoulders, so do 
not you be alarmed. I am perhaps wiser than you think. 
At any rate, we can face the position better now that we 
have had tliis talk, can we not, Stella ? And I will keej) 
you up no longer, for you look terribly pale and fagged. 
Good-night, you sweet star — does Alan never call you the 
star of his existence ? " 

But the question brought a tlush of color and a tear 
that decided Lady Val not to ask another. 

Stella did not know where letters would find her hus- 
band, as he was travelling from i)lace to place ; and those 



\.m 



±6o 



TtiE LircJ^ OP TffJS HOVSE. 



which she wrote during the next few days certainly did 
not reach him before his return to Torresmuir. When at 
last, in the first week of December, a telegram came an- 
nouncing the date of his arrival, he was still uninformed 
respecting Molly's presence in the house. For this reason 
alone, Stella would have been anxious for his return ; and 
before long she had another cause for anxiety. The jour- 
ney, which Molly seemeed at first to have borne so well, 
had overtaxed her energies and brought on illness of an 
alarnr'ng kind. For some hours her life trembled in the 
ba'\,,*.e, and even when the worst seemed to be over, and 
'X he "tiful little baby-girl lay in the young mother's arms, 
^^•ii.ile fit of hysterical weeping again hazarded her 
safety a* ' made her attendants nervously watchful against 
excitement of any kind. It was no wonder, therefore 
that, although Stella felt a sense of relief at the thought for 
Alan's arrival, that relief was not unmingled with some- 
thing which bore a strong resemblance to fear. 



CHAPTER XXXVI. 

** MY STAR ! ** 

KiNGSCOTT was for once as ignorant of Alan's where- 
abouts as Stella ; and his ignorance was excessively annoy- 
ing to him. It would have been his greatest possible delight 
to steal a march on Stella and to represent her to her hus- 
band as defying his commands and utterly neglecting his 
wishes : he could, he fancied, have drawn a very striking 
picture of " Stella in revolt," as he phrased it to himself, 
Stella opening the doors of Torresmuir to the disobedient 
runaway daughter whom Alan had never intended to invite 
to his home again. This was all, no doubt, a fancy picture : 
but it would have been extremely gratifying to heighten its 
hues and intensify its distinctness in Alan's eyes. The 
provoking part of it was that Alan had not chosen to leave 
him his address. It was almost the first time that this had 
happened ; and Kingscott was obliged to see in it what he 
had for a long time suspected, that Alan did not trust him 
as much as in former days, and was rapidly learning to 
dispense with his services. 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



261 



Under these circumstances he began to wonder whether 
it would not be best for him to take his leave of Torres- 
muir at a somewhat early date. He had reason to be well 
satisfied with his gains : he had secured for himself a lar^r 
sum of money which he had carefully invested in for**^^ , 
securities : he would be able to decamp at a momei ' 's 
notice, if necessary, without sacrificing a farthing. The 
game was almost played out now. If Molly and her hus- 
band were to be installed at Torresrnuir, he knew that he 
must take to flight. For of all the people whom he had 
traduced or injured in his life, he had most reason to dread 
Alan Moncrieff and John Hannington, especially in con- 
junction. 

What he could do at present, howevei, was to make 
Stella exceedingly uncomfortable b; -. \ '^tence of knowing 
Alan's address and witholding it. bh« ould not tell that 
this was untrue ) and it threw he: .to j fever to recollect 
from time to time that he migh . dl this while be corres- 
ponding with her husband, giving 1 m the details of her 
life, traducing her motives, vili ;^*nf' her deeds. She be- 
lieved him — rightly enough — to l j '.apable of all this. And 
she could not be content in the thought of its possibility ; 
for although she told herself repeatedly that she did not 
now love her husband she was strangely sensitive to his 
opinion of her. She still shrank from the idea that her 
actions were misrepresented in his eyes, and at the same 
time she told herself that it was useless to care what he 
thought of her. Such contradictions of feeling will some- 
times exist in the most logical persons alive ; and Stella 
did not try to reconcile the two ; she let them flourish side 
by side, and the one might choke the other if it could. 

The antagonism between herself and Ralph Kingscott 
was now carried into the veriest trifles, and it was not to 
be wondered at that it manifested itself at the time of 
Alan's return. Who was to meet the master of the house ? 
What carriage should be sent ? Stella said that she would 
go herself ; but Mr. Kingscott calmly assured her that this 
was impracticable, as the bay horses had fallen lame, the 
landau was out of repair, and finally that Alan had told 
him to come himself in the dog-cart. Stella, flushing with 
annoyance, ceded the field. Ralph must meet him then; 
and Alan must hear the first account of her doings from 
Ralph's malicious tongue. There was no help for it, and 
she could not even protest. 



rl 



262 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



Moreover, she had to keep her face calm and cheerful, 
for Molly, still terribly weak and excitable, must not know 
that anything was amiss. So, in spite of a very heavy 
heart, Stella was her sweet, serene self in the sick room ; 
and if, when Molly was sleeping, a few tears fell on the 
little red face of the baby that Stella loved to hold, nobody 
was the wiser, and the tears were hastily wiped away 
without leaving any trace behind. 

Mr. Kingscott had driven off in the dog-cart about three 
o'clock, but he had some business in the town, and was 
not to meet Alan until a little after five o'clock. They 
would hardly reach Torresmuir before six. 

Lady Valencia, who was still in the house, noticed 
Stella's pale cheeks, and persuaded her to go out for a 
stroll about two o'clock. " I'll sit with Molly," she said, 
" and take care of Miss Babs. What will Mr. Moncrieff 
say to that white face ? Go and get a little fresh air, dear, 
and you will be all the better able to give your husband a 
welcome." 

Possibly she was right, thought Stella, as she went to 
look for her hat : it would be well to steady her nerves and 
raise her spirits a little before she encountered Alan. There 
would probably be a battle to fight with him : he would no 
doubt be angry with her for telegraphing to Molly to come 
home, and he might not credit her with not having known 
where he was staying. Besides, if Ralph knew, he might 
have been leading Alan to believe that she had acted out 
of mere wilfulness — oh, there was no end to the complicated 
possibilities of vexation that lay before her ! She tried to 
string her courage up to a high point, but her heart would 
beat faster at every thought of her husband, and her hands 
would turn cold when she pictured his look of stern disap- 
proval ! Her efforts were useless, and she decided that it 
v/as better not to think of him at all than to distress herself 
by these anticipations ; and so she tried to turn her atten- 
tion to the wintry scenes amongst which she walked, and 
to notice only the contrasts of sunlight and shadow on the 
snow-clad hills, or the glitter of hoar frost on the trees and 
shrubs on either hand. 

She had taken the road that led towards Dunkeld, and 
did not intend to go very far> The day was cold bur 
bright, and walking was very pleasant. She went for some 
little distance, gathering a winter bouquet on her way — a 



THE Ll'CK OF THE HOUSE. 



463 



few red herrieS;, a yellow le^f or two, a mossy twig, and by 
and by she began to rearrange her little nosegay, looking 
down at it instead of straight before her. So it happened 
that she did not in the least see that any one was approach- 
ing, and when, at the sound of a halting footstep she 
raised her eyes, she started violently to find that they met 
those of her husband, who was standing in the road before 
her. 

"Stella ! " There was the most extraordinary pleasure 
in his face and voice. '* Did you come to meet me?" 

" No," said Steila, hastily. " Oh, no, I did not think 
that you could come until six o'clock." She shrank and 
colored as she spoke, and saw the light suddenly die out 
of his face and eyes. *' Mr. Kingscott has gone to meet 
you." 

" Indeed ? I did not see him. You were on your way 
somewhere, perhaps : do not let me detain you " — with 
freezing politeness. 

" I only came ou<. tor a stroll. I am going home now. 
I will walk back with you." 

"Oh, don't trouble yourself. Don't turn back if you 
want a walk." 

" I want to walk back with you," she said — an insistance 
which struck him as unusual — " if you will let me." 

" I shall be most happy to have your company," he 
answered, in the formal voice that she had learnt to know 
so well. And then he glanced curiously at her flushed 
face, as if he wondered at her discomposure; and they 
walked on together. 

" I suppose you know," she said, after a little pause, 
" that I had not your address ? " 

" I suppose not. I did not think that you would want it." 

"I have written several times to places where I thought 
you might be found, but you have not got my letters." 

" No. You — you — wanted me, Stella? " 

" There was some news for you to hear." 

"Oh, that was all." His voice grew indifferent at once. 

" It is a great deal. It is very important. Mr. King- 
scott did not tell it you, then ? " 

" I have not seen him since I came back." * 

" I thought that he might have written." 

" He did not know where I was. Do you think thai I 
should tell him my address when I had not told you ? " 



1:1' )' 



iM 



1 i. 
■1 (i 



ft64 



THE LUCK Otf Tlik HOUSE, 



Stella was conscious of something unusual — somcthint^ 
Indefinably warm and caressing — which crej)t now and 
then into his tone ; but it was so ciuic kly succeeded b^ 
coldness, tliat she had scarcely time to realise it before it 
was gone. 

•• I wanted to be alone for a time — not to be troubled 
with business lettcis," he went on. "'I'lierc was nothing 
for which I was likely to be needed at home. 1 have been 
walking — and thinking : that is all.'* 

•• I have a great deal to tell you," said Stella, tremulously. 
*♦ Molly is here." 

*• Molly ? " She had somewhat expected the quick, 
stern look of inquiry, the bending of the haughty brows. 
•• And her husl)and? " 

'* Her husband turned her out into the street one cou-t, 
stormy night. She went to Uertie s lodgings. They tele- 
graphed here to know if she might come." 

" Hannington turned her out? lurned Molly out? — • 
his wife ? " He slopped short in the road, as if he could 
not go on, his li^ s working with emotion : suddenly he 
broke out with a violent ejaculation. •* The scoundrel I 
the brute 1 And I not here to horsewhip him I Well, 
what next ? What did she do ? She came here — of 
course. Well ? " 

*' Oh, Alan, I was afraid that you would not like her 
coming 1 " was Stella's involuntary cry. 

" Not like it? My own daughter? Do you think that 
I am such an inhuman father, then ? You could have no 
doubt about it, Stella ! You telegraphed to her to come, 
did you not ? " 

'* Yes, at once." 

" Of course you did. I had no need to ask the question. 
And he — what did he do ? Has he been here too ? What 
a fool I was to leave no address I But I thought — well, 
never mind : tell me everything." 

'• We have not heard from Mr. Hannington. Lady 
Valencia had a letter from a friend of hers, who told her 
that he had not been seen for some days — that people 
thought he had gone abroad. Lady Valencia and Bertie 
came with Molly. She has been very ill, Alan : I thought 
that we should nave lost her." 

And then her eyes filled with tears and her faced paled 
a little. The fear of her husband, so suddenly removed, 



\THE LUCK r* THE HOUSE, 



•65 



the rcmcmbranrc of past anxiety, unnerved her. She 
could BOt speak or walk for a minute or two: she stood 
still in the middle of the lonely road, and was surprised to 
find Alan's strong arm round her, his voire begging her to 
lean on him, to be ( omforted, to remember that he was 
near. Mis words were so incoherrnt that she thought she 
could not have heard them aright, and when she was able 
to glance up into his face he suddenly became silent and 
looked confused and ashamed. 

•' Molly is better now," she said, " and the baby, Alan, 
is such a dear little girl." 

She felt herself drawn a little closer to him. She did 
not quite understand his emotion, and she went on 
softly :— 

•* 1 think Molly will be happier when she has seen you. 
We have all wanted you " 

•* All wanted me ? Even you ? " 

She did not answer. He felt her (piiver all over within 
his arm. Some new sensation caused him suddenly to 
relinmiish his hold. He turned away from her and stood 
with his face averted for several seconds. She thought 
that she had vexed him by her silence, and ached with 
the effort to speak — to explain, to justify herself, and yet 
she could not do it. Something withheld her tongue from 
speech. 

" Tell me all about it," he said at last, in his usual calm, 
cold way. " Are you well enough to walk on ? Tell me 
about this scoundrel of a fellow. Has nobody done any- 
thing?" 

Stella found her voice in order to reply. She told him 
the whole story, as far as she knew it, in detail ; and 
Alan's wrath broke out afresh when he heard it. 

" My poor child ! " he said, striding along so fast in 
his indignation that Stella could scarcely keep up with 
him. ** My poor little Molly 1 sue has suffered indeed I 
She has expiated her wrong-doing, ceitainly. Well, we 
will keep her with us — her and her child ; and try to make 
her happy, poor wounded heart? Shall \vf not, Stella?" 

** I shall be only too glad to keep h^,r." 

" I ought to have been at home, i ought neve? <o have 
done such a wild thing as to go off in that way, as if I did 
not care what befel any of you. I shall never forgive my- 
self. But I certainly had an idea that I left an address 



i- I 



266 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



with Macalister. I suppose I forgot it. I meant to have 
important letters forwarded. I was a fool — a fool. A 
selfish fool, too, for I went for my own satisfaction only. 
If I tell you why I went, Stella, I wonder whether you 
will think it possible ever to forgive me for my neglect of 
you." 

** Tell me," she said, softly. 

" My dear," he said, stopping short and looking fixedly 
at her, " I had been finding out that I could not bear the 
state of things between us — the life we lead — any longer. 
And I went away that I might, in the course of a few 
lonely days, settle one or two matters with my conscience. 
I wanted to decide whether you were right or wrong in 
the accusation you brought against me. I thought — even 
on that night when we talked together in the library — that 
you were wrong. Do you remember? But the more I 
think of it, the more I am certain that you were right." 

She wished that she could stop him, but the strange 
dumbness which had beset her before made it impossible 
for her to utter a word. He went on. 

" I acknowledge the truth uf everything that you said to 
me. I have been harsh, tyrannical, suspicious, over- 
bearing. My children did well to distrust my love : it 
was not great enough to give them what they needed. 
And you were right to reproach me — even to despise me ; 
for I had been wilfully ulind to the light that shone upon 
me — the light of the star that might have guided me. It 
does guide me in spite of all : it leads me back to yourself. 
I come back, Stella, to tell you in all humbleness and 
sincerity that I see my error, and that, as far as it is 
possible to me, I do repent of it. And if this does not 
content you, and you still find it a horrible and grievous 
thing to live in my house after the way in which I have 
behaved to you, why, then, my dear^ there is still one way 
open to us : I can relieve you of my presence. I will go 
away, if you wish to be rid of me, and I swear I will not 
trouble you again. I said that I would never let you go ; 
and I never will ; but if you bid me I will go myself. 
You shall decide. And that is what I have been thinking 
of in these days of my absence, while you were bearing 
my burdens and helping my children, and I was selfishly 
loitering away my days on the hills and moors. I repent, 
Stella, but I know very well that repentance does not 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



3^ 



undo a wrong. I a ]k you to decide our future : that is all. 
I dare not ask you to forgive me." 

Then, as she was still silent, he added, in a low tone : 

" Tell me, Stella, shall I go or stay ? " 

''Stay," she taid, almost inaudibly. 

" You say that out of kindness. No, that will not do. 
My life here is intolerable — if you do not want me." 

" I do want you, Alan." 

'* But, my dear, you don't understand. I am such a 
blunderer. Whj,t I mean is that, in finding out that you 
were right, I found out also how much I loved you. Yes, 
with my whole heart and soul, Stella. I cannot bear to 
live in the same house with you, my darling, unless you 
can love me a little and forgive me a great deal." 

She forgot that they were in the open roadway, where 
travellers might come and go at any moment. With a 
movement so quick that it took him by surprise, she 
threw her arms round his neck and looked into his face. 

" Oh, Alan, Alan ! " she said, '* I have been as blind as 
you, and far, far more unjust than you. Did you believe 
me when I said that my love was dead ? Darling, I have 
loved you all the time. Oh, it is good to have you here, 
to know that you are home again, and that you love me 
too!" 

" My star ! my blessed guiding star ! " he murmured as, 
for the first time, their lips met in the loving kiss so long 
desired — so long delayed — so perfect when at last it was 
given and received. " I have strayed from you too long ; 
God helping me I will never leave you again, never close 
my eyes again to your brightness, you sweet star of my 
life." 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 



HIS ONLY FRIEND. 



It was a new experience to Molly to have her father's 
arms about her, and to recognise with surprise and delight 
the love that shone from his eyes, the tenderness breathing 
in every accent of his voice. It was a revelation to her. She 
had never known, as she said naively to Stella afterwards, 
that her father " cared so much." She was too weak and 






268 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



languid to talk a great deal ; but there was great comfort 
for her in the assurance of his forgiveness, and the kisses 
that he pressed on the 'face of her baby-girl as well as upon 
her own. 

One anxiety alone possessed her. She found it difficult 
to speak of her husband without tears and agitation, and 
the subject of her marriage was therefore generally 
avoided. But she insisted on begging her father not to 
try to see Hannington — not to take any notice of the past, 
but to let her stay quietly at Torresmuir, and leave him to 
go his own way. Mr. Moncrieff was obliged to promise 
that he would do nothing — at any rate until she was 
stronger — and that he would tell her if John Hannington 
wrote or came to Torresmuir. 

'* He had better not come," said Alan to his wife, with 
an ominous darkening of his brows. '' He shall never 
enter my doors." 

But it is easy to say what shall or shall not happen ; 
not as easy always to control Fate. 

To Lady Val's observant eye, the change in the relations 
between Stella and Alan Moncrieff was very plain. She 
saw at once, too, that her own presence was something of 
a superfluity. Molly was slowly recovering ; Bertie and 
Kingscott were outwardly civil companions to one 
another, although no longer friends ; Lady Val felt herself 
one too many, and thought it better to announce her 
immediate return to London. She started two days after 
Alan's arrival; and reached town on the 17th of Decem- 
ber, when Christmas preparations were in full swing, and 
the " Christmas rush " was just beginning. 

Owing to her sudden departure from London, which 
had upset all her previous arrangements, she found herself 
alone in her pretty little house near the Park, without 
occupation or engagement. She had a good deal to think 
about, and was not sorry to find herself thus unencumbered. 
The matter of the jewelry and the papers which Molly was 
said to have abstracted weighed upon her mind. She 
knew that not a question had been asked of the poor 
young mother ; her father's forgiveness had been accorded 
freely and fully, and he had resolved to bury the whole 
matter in oblivion. But it was not altogether easy for 
Lady Valencia to do this. For she had loved John Han- 
nington, and' it was the bitterest sorrow of her life to think 
him" Base. 



tHE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



269 



On the secoLd day of her arrival in town she received a 
call from Captain Rutherford. She had written to tell him 
that she was returning, and was not at all surprised to see 
him when h'^ appeared. She noticed that he looked 
harassed and anxious, and she hastened to give him, in her 
usual light and cheerful way, some reassuring news of 
Molly, of whom she felt sure that he wanted to hear. 

" I am glad she is safe at home," he said at length, with 
a heavy sigh. 

" So am I," said Lady Val, briskly. *' But you look 
dreadfully worried, Charlie. Anything wrong ? " 

" It's — John Hannington," muttered Charlie. 

He did not see the change that passed over Lady Val- 
encia's face. She sat erect, and pressed her hands tightly 
together, but her voice did not alter as she said : 

" Well, what of him ? Is he not in Paris ? " 

" No, worse luck. He's at home as usual — and from 
what I hear he's drinking himself to death." 

** Drinking ! Are you sure ? " 

" His servant went to Donald Vereker a day or two ago 
and asked him to get his master to see a doctor. Donald, 
having heard of the way in which he had treated his wife, 
refused to go near him. He told me so, and took great 
credit to himself for being so virtuous. I don't see it in 
the same light — although I loathe John Hannington with 
all my heart. It was almost impossible for me to interfere. 
But I did what I could." 

" What did you do, Charlie ? " 

" I hunted up the doctor that I knew they used to see 
sometimes. He would not go for a long time ; he said it 
would be an intrusion. However, I persuaded him ; and 
he went this afternoon, as if to pay a friendly call. He 
was admitted, and he saw John Hannington." 

''Well?" ^ 

" He was in a very queer state," said Captain Ruther- 
ford, slowly. ** He was half-stupefied. He must have 
l)een using some drug as well as drinking brandy. He did 
not seem to resent the doctor's visit, but he would not 
promise to follow the advice that wa-^ given. It seems 
doubtful whether he quite understood it." 

" What was the advice? " Sciid Lady Va', sharply. 

" P'irst and foremost, to give up brandy and opiates, of 
course. Then, to change his habits of life completely — 



i70 



Tirp: 1 ucfc OF riiE nov^E, 




.t^r\ 



go into the country, live ;i great deal in the fresh air, travel 
and amuse hinisell. 11 not — — " 

"Well, if not? " 

" He will cither have an attack of delirium tremens 
before long, or he will continue to stupefy himself until his 
brain softens and he lapses into imbecility." 

" Oh, that is dreadful ! " said Lady Val, with a sudden 
ishiver. "Can nothing be done? Can vou do nothing, 
Charlie?" 

•* How can I ? '' said the young man, gloomily. ** I am 
not his friend. For- for Mrs. Hannington's sake I am 
sorry for his condition ; bui it — it is his own fault, l.ady 
Valencia. It is no nustv)rtune ; it is a sin— a crime — to 
drink and to drug oneself until one's self-control is lost. 
If he has a friend in the world, let his fnend be told, and 
let his friend help him ; but /can t. 

" I am his friend," said Lady Val, rising hastily from her 
chair. " I am the only friend he has ieit, I'll go to him 
and tell him what he must do." 

'* You, Lady Valencia ! But that is inijmssible," said 
the young man, rising also, and looking at her in alarm. 
"You could not " 

" Yes, 1 could, Charlie ! And you are going to help 
me," said his hostess, turning very pale, and clenching her 
hands against her side. Herey^ m glowed l^kc coals of fire 
beneath her black brows. " If you thinl thut I am going 
to stand by and sec him drift down to madness or death 
without holding ' >;. .; helping hand to him you art mis- 
taken. - am g.iMug to him this moment, under your 
escort, Charlie, and between us we will bring John Han- 
nington to a better mind." 

" But Lady Valencia, " stammered Charlie, '' you cannot 
go. Let me go ; I will do my best " 

" You don't know John Hannington as I do,' said Lady 
Val, resolutely ; 'and, as you said just now, you are not 
his frieiic. What are you afraid of? Mrs. Grundy? 
You ought to know by this time that she has no terrors for 
me ; I can aftbrd lO despise her when I am doing only 
what is right What does ccnventionalily matter when a 
man's life and reason are at stake? Let us throw all 
foolish selfish notions Ko the wind, and do our best to 
mak*. this poor wietch a better man and a better husband 
than he has ever been before " 

" Vou would never sena him back to her f ** 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



27I 



'' Ay, but I would," said Lady Val, vehemently, " if it 
were to b;,'g her to pardon him and i)ronnse to make amends. 
If there are symptoms of disease, as the doctor says, don't 
you see that they make all the difference in the way in 
which she can look at what he has done? I should feel so, 
at least. But it is no use talking it over, Charlie : will you 
go with me, or will you not?" ' '^ 

♦'Really, Lady Val " 

" Because, if you won't, I shall go alone." 

Charlie yielded the point. He had unlimited faith in 
Lady Valencia, and he thought that she was behaving with 
heroic courage, but he was not well convinced of her 
wisdom on this occasion. And, indeed, her action had a 
Quixotic look, and contained within it certain elements of 
danger ; but then Charlie Rutherford did not understand 
the whole of the story, and Lat?y Val was not a person 
easy to restrain when she wanted her own way. 

It was only about four in the afternoon when the two 
visitors arrived at the house which Mr. and Mrs. Manning- 
ton hadoccui)ied for I le last few months. Mr. Hannington, 
they were told, was up and dressed : he was in the little 
drawing-room, which opened out of a large aiarimeni. 
In this larger room Lady Val begged Charlie to htay, while 
she, with apparently undaunted courage, knocked at the 
inner door, opened it, and walked in, shutting it b :hind 
her. She would never have acknowledged how fa? t her 
heart beat, or how she felt for a moment or two as h she 
were walking straight into a lion's den. 

The lamps were not lighted, but the red glow of th.: fire; 
fell full upon the figure in the arm-' lair which had been 
dragged forward on the hearthrug, lohn Hannington \^y 
rather than sat in its capacious emi ace : he was wrapped 
in a great fur overcoat as if he felt the cold, and he seemed 
to be half asleep. Lady Val's quicK. eye noted immediately 
that on a little table beside him ^ tood a tray containing a 
half-emptied bottle of brandy, i glass, and one or two 
smaller bottles. For a minute or two she stood looking at 
him, while he slumbere J, or seemed to slumber, unconscious 
of her presence. A harder expression came into her fact? 
as she gazed. 

" Mr. Hannington," she said at length, in a peculiarly 
clear and penetrating voice ; *' I h e come for a little talk 
with you, if you can give me a few minutes.'' 



Hji 



Ynr. i.vck or- tHe noist-. 



^\^ 






I }■ 



<: . , . «> r 



Ho stirreil uneasily aiul opriUMl W\% eyes. " V^al I " lu' 
said, hoarsi'ly, at last. Ho l«)()ki'd up at lu'i for some 
soioiuls, with a ila/i'«l o\invssii)u in his I'aio. Then Ik* 
siuUlonly mtoitd a groan, and (lin|tpo(l liis head upon his 
Invast. 'Iho look, tlu- a< lion> i\iade Lady ValoiiLia turn 
very pale. 

"Are you ill, jack?" she asked, laying her hand on his 
arm. 

'• I have heeu ill : yes, I am ill now." 

•• Shall I go away ? " 

'HuMe was a little silence. "Why have you come?" 
he nmttered. 

" '\\> see whether 1 <ould lu Ip yo\i. You are ill and ni 
tnmhle. and I am v«>nr (Viend, )a( k, and want to help you 
if 1 lan." 

The wonls seemed to rouse him. He raised himself into 
a sitlii\g posture, rested his elhows on his knees, and began 
passing l\is hands up and down his forehead as if trying to 
l>anish son\e strange haziness of thought. I,ady Val took 
away her hand, and walcheil him keenly. What would 
he do next i* 

She was hardly prejiared for the next action. He lifted 
liis face again, look d towards the little table and stretched 
out his hand for the bran<ly. Quick as thought lu.r fingers 
alighted on the bottle fust. " No, Jack," she said, keep- 
ing a firm hold upon it, " not that. You are killling your- 
self." 

"And why shoidd 1 not?" he asked, fiercely. The 
light had come back into his sullen eyes. 

" Are you so ready to die ? " she said. And then she 
removed the little table to some distance and stood between 
it and his chair. Tliere was again a short silence, during 
which it was evident that Hannington was endeavoring to 
recollect himself and to recover his scattered senses. It 
Wi'S only Lady Val's j^rcsence that could have caused him 
to u .''ke so great an elTort over his inclinations. He roused 
h''n3vlf more and more, and finally he uttered a short, 
\ ague laugh, and staggereJ to his feet. 

" 1 ifavc been droMuing, I think," he said. " I don't 
(uite know what V\\\ doing. No, it is not brandy, as you 
\,.v ink, Lady Valencia. And it is not illness." 

"What is it, then?" 

'' Opi\nn. Give me .i glass of cold water, if you have 
one there. 1 shall be better directly." 






THE i.ucK or rifp. novsr.. 



«7.1 



Siie tlid iiR she wn«? refiiicstcd. lie dratik it ofT, prrsHrd 
his hands to his hcnd oikc iiuirr, find then turned upcm 
her with a new Iduk in his eyes. She saw at on( e that he 
was snllen, irritahh-, |ierh;»|is even asjianied ; lnit he was 
perfectly 



tt I 



scMter, .'ind ne uns s.'ine 



I (h) ndl know to wh;il I .iin in<hl»fcd hir this visit," 

he said, in n hard and shghlly sneering tone. " My wife 
is not at h(nne, as j)roli;il)]y yon nre aware." 

I <M)me ahnost sfr-n^ht from lier," said I,a<1y Val, 



straightforwardly 



I hnvc hern a good de.'d with her 



ever since the night when you turned her out of doors 
into the street." 

He turned aside as if slung. " Vou know well enough 
that I never meant her to go," he said, sullen'". " I 
called hei l»a( k dire<tly I was mad with rage and — ■ 
and- 



Atid drink," said l,;idy Val in her clear, concise way. 

"Well," he said, dogg<'dly, "if you like to have it so, 
you may. Drink. Who drove me t(j that, I should like 
to know ? " 

" No one drove you to it," said she, f.icing him c.otira- 
gcously. "You drifted into these hnhits through your 
own folly and wenkness ; afid now you have disgraced 
yourself ruitie(l yourself -broken your wife's heart, and 
made your friends your l»est Iriends <lespair of you." 

" Then," said Ilannington, with a short, hard laugh, " I 
had better put an end to it all as soon as possd)le. Will 
the brandy bottle do it (piickly enough? Perhaps a pistol 
wou.ld suit you better ! It will end in the one way or the 
other, you know." 

" No, it won't," said T/ady Val. "You have behaved 
disgracefully. Jack ; tiiere's no doubt about that. JJut you 
are not going to behave in that way any more. I defy 
you to look me in face and tell me that you are going to 
make me ashamed of you for the rest of my life. I have a 
claim on you as well as Molly. And if Molly and I cannot 
plead sufficiently with you, there is another claimant, Jack 
— one that I think you cannot refuse." 

" What do you mean ? " he said, in a lowered voice. 
He had looked her full in the face at the beginning of her 
sentences, but towards their close his eyes fell. He hclf- 
turned away as he asked the rjuestion. 

"Oh, Jack, don't you know?" said Lady Valencia, 
softly. 



274 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



" Not in the least." 

" Not that you have a little daughter ? and that for her 
sake, as will as ours, you must be good?" 

It was the simplest possible appeal, and yet it was curi- 
ously effective. Hannington looked at her again for a 
moment, and then suddenly sat down as if his strength 
had given way, and covered his face with his hands. In 
the silence that followed Lady Val heard a sound that was 
suspiciously like a sob. 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 



THE LAST CHANCE. 



*' I NEVER knew," he said, without looking up, when the 
silence had lasted for some time. 

" I thought you did not," said Lady Val. 

" You always knew me best, Val," he murmured, with 
his face still hidden in his hands. 

** Did I ? I began to think I had been mistaken, Jack." 

But to this he made no answer. 

Presently, however, he let his hands fall from his face, 
sat up, and laughed aloud. The laughter made Lady Val 
stir uneasily : until she saw that in spite of his laughter, 
his face looked strained and pale, and that his eyes were 
dull with suffering. 

*' What difference does it make ? " he said. " I have 
been proved a — a sort of — brute to the whole world 
already ; and this only makes matters worse. I shall never 
see the child — or its mother. Moncrieff will take care of 
that. I shall go on in the way in which I have begun." 

" No, Jack, you won't." 

''And why not? Why should you stand in the way of 
my going to destruction ? It is your own fault. If — when 
we were younger — you had been kinder to me, if you had 
not yielded when your father said that I was too poor to 
marry you, we should not be where we are to dav. You 
ruined me yourself, and it is too late to change." 

'■'■ It is too late to change the past," said Lady Valencia, 
steadily, "but that has nothing to do with the future. 
You are a young man, John, young and strong \ if you 



77//; LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



875 



choose, you may have many years of a happy and pros- 
perous life before you. If, because you have erred, you 
are tC/O much like a petted child to say to yourself that you 
were wrong and now mean to do right, why, then, ruin is 
before you, and y u will deserve it ; but I believe in your 
manliness still." 

" Of course it was all my fault," said the man, sullenly. 

" No," she said, quickly, " I acknowledge my own. If 
I had not been so worldly and cowardly we should both 
have been happier. I see that now, and I ask for your 
forgiveness, Jack. When you have forgiven me, you will 
be better able to forgive yourself and start afresh." 

"There is no fresh start possible for me." 

"■ Oh, yes, there is. Do you know that I have been 
staying at Torresmuir ? " 

He started, but did not reply. 

" Molly is there. I travelled North with her," said Lady 
Val, quite smoothly and calmly, as if she had been narrat- 
ing the most ordinary incident in the world. " I took the 
greatest care of her, but we could not prevent her feeling 
the fatigue of it- 



li 



(< 



(( 



I think a 
Not a very 



We" Hannington repeated, oeiow his breath. 

<< We — Bertie and I," said she, tranquilly. " We two, 
and my maid. Poor Molly was very ill for some time after 
we arrived at Torresmuir. We were afraid that she would 
not get over it." 

Why was I not told?" 
Nobody liked to write to you just then, 
letter has been sent to you by Mr. Moncrieff. 
pleasant letter, perhaps. You have read it ? " 

Hannington hesitated. " I have opened no let.ers during 
the last few days," he said. 

** Ah — that accounts for your not knowing anything. 
Weil, Molly has pretty well got over the danger, but she 
is very weak. The baby is a sweet little girl : they think 
of calling it after me if you don't object." 

" I ! " he exclaimed. " I — obJe{:t ? " His voice expressed 
utter humiliation. " How can I object to — to — anything? 
Besides — you know that I would rather she were named 
after you than any one. But how — how " 

" How did it come about? " asked Lady Val, briskly. 
" I don't quite know. Jack, I was sorry for Molly — I think 
that was all." 

" But she- 



ll M 



>» 



27<5 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



s 



" She lets me be sorry for her. More than that : she 
trusts me, and I think that she loves me a little, too. I 
have a message from her to you." 

" From her — to tne 1 " 

" Yes. We talked about you before I left Torresmuir. 
We did not know where you were — we were told that you 
had gone abroad. But if\ saw you your wife said I might 
tell you that she asked you to forgive her for what she had 
said and done to provoke you, and — well, the rest depends 
upon what you say to that, and I am not bound to tell you 
any more !' 

*' What should I say to it ? " said Hannington, looking up 
with a face that was white and set. " She has no need to 
ask 7ne to forgive her. I suppose she knows — as all the 
world knows — that I behaved badly to her. I repented it 
as soon as she was gone. My God ! I wish I had had 
the resolution to put a bullet through my brain ! The 
whole world knows and condemns me now." 

Lady Val paused for a moment. It occurred to her, as 
she glanced at him, that our punishments mostly come to 
us through what we love best ; and that, as John Han- 
nington had loved the world, bis scourging was to come 
from the world's hands : a sort of retribution that is less 
rare than some people seem to understand. 

" To take that way out oC your difficulties," she said, 
eyeing him keenly, " would be only to heap more misfor- 
tune on her head. Be a man, Jack ; go to your wife and 
ask her to forgive you, and see whether you cannot manage 
to be happy yet. She told me that she wanted to see you ! 
I think that you ought to go. It is your only way — your 
last chance." 

" Go to Alan Moncrieff 's ? Not I." ''*' ' ■•- f 

•' I am sure that — for Molly's sake — he would admit 
you." _ - 

" It's impossible," he answered, shortly and sullenly. 
" I could not do it. It's not so easy for a man to sue for 
pardon, Valencia." 

" Ah, that is always a man's way of talking ! " cried 
Valencia, impatiently. '■'■ You will let a woman die rather 
than do a thing that is not easy ! Who supposes that it is 
easy ? Of course, you must — if you have a spark of good- 
ness in you — feel it a terrible thing — a degrading thing — to 
have acted as you have done to poor Molly ; and it is diffi- 



The luck of the iioOse. 



477 



Cult to think that she will forgive you, and so you won't 
stoop to say that you arc sorry ! Oh, I have no patience 
with ihat kind of pride ! There's no manliness in it, no 
real strength or nobility : it is sheer cowardice and weak- 
ness ! The man that I could respect, Jack, is not the man 
who never falls, but the man who has the pluck to pick 
himself up when he has fallen, and to say — * I am sorry, 
but I'll do better next time ! ' That is the man I honor, 
not the man who does not know what temptation means I " 

Hannington stood silent, thrilled by her words as he had 
seldom been thrilled in his life before : with knitted brows, 
eyes averted, and breath quickening he waited until she 
had ended her tirade, then walked to the mantelpiece and 
laid his arm upon it and his forehead on his arm. There 
was a look of irresolution in the pose that he had adopted, 
which Valencia was quick to remark. 

" If you won't take the manly way out of your troubles," 
said Lady Val with a ring of scorn in her clear voice, 
" then, at any rate, take a rational one. Give up these 
drugs, these poisons : leave London, emigrate, work for 
your own living, and make yourself to some extent a useful 
member of society. Your friends will see that you have 
work to do. All that is wanted is your own will, and 
your own conscience. Waken them^ and there is every 
hope for you ; without them there is none." 

" You were never very much in the habit of sparing mc. 
Lady Val," said Hannington, lifting his head from his arm, 
"and you certainly don't spare me now." 

" Why should I spare you ? If only I could make you 
see the thing as I see it — as others see it I — but I know I 
can't. Oh, Jack, Jack " — suddenly lapsing into a tone of 
passionate entreaty — " can't you see what I mean ? doesn't 
it seem worth while to you to try? " 

" It does while you are speaking," said Hannnigton. 

" Think of me as always speaking ! " she cried. 
" Remember that I think of you — I pray for you — night 
and day. We are old friends, Jack, and I, for one, never 
forget old friends. For the sake of our friendship, 1 beg 
of you to go to your wife and child — ask Molly to forgive 
you, and begin a new life with her. It is the only thing I 
wish for in the world ! The only thing that can make me 
happy any more." 
,^^;"Is it so?" he asked with a sigh. "Well — it won't 







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THE LVCK OF THE tlOVS^, 



be much good, Valencia : I warn you. But for your sakc^ 
— ril try. I'll ask Molly to forgive me, and I'll do my 
best to be less of a brute — will that do ? Will that satisfy 
you ? " 

She held out both her hands to him : her eyes were full 
of tears. " I always believed in you," she said, simply. 
And Hannington hung his head as he pressed her hands 
and let them go. Lady Val's trust in him had never been 
without a restraining power. 

" There's one thing more that you must do," she said, 
after a few moments' pause. " There's a mystery that 
you must try to clear up. In my own mind I am quite 
sure that Molly is innocent, but an imputation has been 
thrown on her character which you must clear away." 

" What do you mean ? " 

" Will you tell me what Molly took away with her from 
Torresmuir ? " 

"Took away with her?" said Hannington, staring. 
" Some clothes in a black bag : that was all." 

" Jewels ? " 

He laughed rather harshly. 

" I never saw any." 

" Papers of value ? " 

" Certainly not. I should have seen them. What do 
you mean ? " 

" I mean that her mother's jewels, a large sum of money, 
and some papers were stolen from Alan Moncrieff 's study 
on the night when Molly left home. Her father took it for 
granted, apparently, that she stole them ; and that is the 
reason why he has been so obdurate. I am quite sure 
that she never did anything of the kind." 

" Of course not. Moncreiff believed that of his daughter, 
did he ? Good heavens ! what a fool that man must be ! '* 

" Mr. Kingscott seems to have fostered the suspicion ? '* 

"Kingscott?" 

" Bertie blames him for the long misunderstanding. 
He says that Mr. Kingscott has always made as much 
mischief as possible between Alan Moncrieff and his 
children." 

Hannington paused a little, with a troubled, downcast 
look. 

" I can't understand it," he said at last. " Kingscott is 
a scoundrel— I know that ; but why should he try to throw 
suspicion on his niece? " 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



979 



*' To cover his own dishonesty, perhaps." 

*' If that is the case, Til make him rue it. He has done 
me harm enough already. I'll have the truth out of him 
now." 

" Don't be too hasty, Jack," said Lady Val, feeling the 
need for a little caution. " I only surmise " 

" Your surmises are generally very near the truth, Val. 
I am much obliged to you for letting me know," said Han- 
nington. His langour had entirely disappeared : there 
was a new fire in his eye, a new vigor in the tones of his 
voice. " I must get to the bottom of this. Even if I 
had no other reason, this would be a good reason for my 
going to Torresmuir ai once. Whatever I may have been, 
no man has ever had cause to call me dishonest." 

Lady Val was not displeased to see him roused from 
his apathetic indifference, but even she was surprised at 
the decision and the energy which he suddenly manifested. 
She had reached his most vulnerable part : an imputation 
on his honor was evidently a thing which he could not 
brook. To her astonishment, he declared himself ready to 
start for Scotland that night : he would go by the express, 
he said, and sleep in the train. He maintained that he 
felt perfectly well and strong, and that there was no reason 
why anybody should feel anxious respecting him. For 
the time being, excit'^ment had given him back all his 
accustomed strength. 

Captain Rutherford almost gasped with astonishment 
when Hannington — pale, jaded, but self-possessed and 
resolved in manner — emerged from the room where he had 
shut himself up for so many days. Charlie looked at 
I^ady Valencia with admiration verging on reverence. 
What a wonderful woman she must be, he thought, when 
she could so completely transform a man's course of action 
and state of mind ! Lady Val did nearly all the necessary 
explanation. Hannington scarcely said a word. 

" Come, Charlie, we must be off," she said, briskly. 
" Mr. Hannington is going out of town and wants to pack. 
Can we do anything more for you, Mr. Hannington ? No ? 
Then — good-bye — and good luck to you." 

She gave him her hand. He pressed it silently, and 
there war a look in his face which caused Charlie Ruther- 
ford to turn away on some pretence of finding a stick or 
an umbrella. His absorption in this task gave Hanning- 



I 



>iiiL 



ito 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



ton an opportunity of uttering a word or two that other- 
wise would have been left unsaid. 

" If I have any good fortune, it will all be owing to you," 
he murmured. 

And Lady Val, with a momentary seriousness and 
gravity which made her face very sweet, answered in a 
still lower tone. " God be with you, Jack ! " she said. 
" It is the old form of * good-bye,' you know — and it is the 
best wish I have to give." 

They parted, with the same self-contained gravity. 
Lady Val was escorted to her own home by Charlie, 
whom she dismissed at the door with brave, laughing 
words ; and then she went up to her own room to weep 
her heart out, and to pray upon her knees for the reforma- 
tion of John Hannington'.s erring, sin-sick soul. 

Hannington got away by the express, as he had intended 
to do, but not without a struggle. When the magic cf 
I^dy Val's presence had been removed, his spirits fell 
once more to zero. In this depression of mind, it was 
natural to him to think of his usual sustainer and consoler 
— the stimulants or the opiates on which he had almost 
lived of late. But his new resolution was sincere, and by 
a great effort he mastered the craving which seemed at 
first as if it would utterly subdue him. He locked the 
bottles in a cupboard, and, in a moment of angry despera- 
tion, threw the key into the fire. It was curious to him to 
observe the feeling of lightness and relief that this rather 
unreasonable action gave him. The throwing away of the 
key was like a casting away of bonds in which he had 
been enthralled. 

The journey Northward was somewhat unfortunate. 
Snow had been falling heavily in some parts of the country, 
and a great drift impeded traffic in the neighborhood of 
Carlisle. He was so much hindered that he did not 
arrive at Dunkeld until the afternoon of the next day ; 
and then it seenied to him that the best thing was to take 
a room at the hotel and write a note that night to Molly's 
father. 

The note was a difllicult one to write, but, all things 
considered, he did it very well. There was more sin 
cerity, more humility in his letter, than Alan Moncrieff 
had expected to find. It set forth simply and unaffectedly 
that he knew how badly he had behaved to his wife — 



TitE IVCK OF THE ffOUSE, 



2^1 



that he deeply regretted his conduct, and begged for an 
interview with her. He dared not write to her himself, he 
said, knowing that she was still weak and ill, and fearing 
to startle her ; but he begged for her father's pardon and 
htr father's help. 

It was the first time in his life that Hannington had 
ever written such a letter, and without T^dy Val's influ- 
ence it would never have been written at all. But he was 
genuinely ashamed of himself, and anxious to be at peace 
with his wife, and — as it was hardly possible that his 
motives should be free from alloy — reinstated in the 
world's good opinion. He had softer thoughts, too, of 
Molly and of his child ; and, growing stronger every hour, 
there was the conviction that his last chance had been 
given to him, and that he must reform his life or go to 
ruin once and for all. 

His last chance 1 It was an easy thing to say ; and yet 
what infinite possibilities of good and evil were contained 
in those three words ! In a far deeper sense than he 
imagined, he was indeed having his last chance. 

Late in the evening a note was brought to him. Mr. 
Moncrieff wrote formally and coldly, but he fixed an hour 
at which he would call upon Hannington at the hotel. 
They could then talk freely, he said, and could consider 
the advisability of the proposed interview with Molly. 
The young man drew a long breath of relief when he read 
the words. Yes. he did want to see Molly — he was begin- 
ning to wonder how she looked and what she would say to 
him — and a flood of shame filled his heart at the remem- 
brance of the past. For, as Lady Val had said to Stella, 
John Hannington had some sort of a heart, some sort of a 
conscience, after all ; and if they were roused, the man 
might still be saved. 

Mr. Moncrieflf would come to him at five o'clock next 
day. He wondered why the hour was so late, never sus- 
pecting that Kingscott's influence had again been exerted 
to fix it as late as possible. Ralph Kingscott scented 
danger in the air, and had resolved to make his escape 
before Alan met John Hannington. But he had a few last 
arrangements to make, and therefore he had taken care to 
secure some hours before Molly's husband could arrive at 
Torresmuir. 

Hannington grew nervous and uneasy as the day went 



ftia 



Tim LVCK OF THE HOVSR, 



on, and soon after luncheon he determined to go for a long 
walk by way of working o(f his disquietude. He went past 
Torrcsmuir, resolving to turn back in good time, so as to 
be at the hotel at five o'clock precisely. A fancy took 
him to look once more at Tomgarrow, where his meetings 
with Molly used to take place. He reached the narrow 
lane which led to the little hamlet, and walked slowly up 
the ascending ground. The da^, which had been mild 
and cloudy, was already closing m. The gathering dark* 
ness made him scarcely aware of the approach of another 
wayfarer from an opposite direction until the two were 
almost face to face. And then Hannington roused himself 
from his reverie, and came to a sudden standstill, barring 
the other man's advance. 

" I've a word to say to you, Ralph Kingscott,'* he said, 
in harsh, decided tones. 

Ralph Kingscott also stopped short, and the two men 
looked into each other's eyes. 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 



JOHN HANNINGTON'S FATE. 

" What have you to say?" said Kingscott. 

There was a scarcely suppressed impatience in his tone. 
He glanced up and down the narrow lane as if he wanted 
to estimate his chance of escape from his interlocutor. 

" I want a good many things," replied Hannington, 
doggedly. " You have several matters to answer for " 

** Not to you, I think ! " said Kingscott, with a sneering 
laugh. " You have surely enough to do in settling your 
own accounts." 

" I'll take care of my own accounts. I want the truth of 
this story about Molly. You know as well as I do that she 
never took from her father's house a farthing's worth that 
did not belong to her. I hear that you — you of all people ! 
— helped to throw suspicion upon her." 

** There was no need for me to do that. The matter was 
as clear as daylight. Who would take her mother's jewels 
but Molly herself? She had a perfect right to them. And 
as for money — we all know how much you needed ft " 



TirE LUCK' OF TtiH HOUSE, 



a«3 



" Stop thai ! " said Hannington, harshly. " You had 
better not go on. I have heard the whole story from 
Liidy Valencia Gilderoy — I know the proof on which they 
relied : the finding of the ring which Bertie had seen on 
your hand a short time before. To Alan Moncrieff the 
proof of Molly's ginlt may seem positive ; to nie, it is only 
a token of your own guilt." 

Kingscott laughed, but his face had turned pale. 

" You are romancing," he said, contemptuously, " and 
I have no time to listen. Let me pass ; I shall* see you 
again, no doubt." 

" I hope I may never see you agam as long as the 
world lasts," said Hannington, the long-harbored resent- 
ment against Kingscott suddenly bursting into life. •* Thi» 
will be the last time, I assure you." 

•' What do you mean ? " said Ralph, somewhat uneasily. 

"Oh, I don't mean any harm to you. I am not going 
to hurt you. I mean only that I'm ^oing to make a clean 
breast to Moncrieff of all the deahngs I have ever had 
with you — including the way in which you used to bully 
Bertie Moncrieff, and the help i got from you when I 
made love to Molly. I don't suppose he has ever heard 
that you used to plan our meetings, or that you arranged 
the details of that elopement. It will be a little surprise 
for him." 

" Tell what you like," said Kingscott, coolly. " It will 
make no difference to me." 

** It will probably make this difference : you will be 
kicked out of Torresmuir." 

Kingscott laughed lightly and made a step forward. 
" I've provided against that contingency," he said. 

Hannington's perceptions were keen. His eye fell upon 
Kingscott's attire — it seemed to him like that of a man 
ready for a journey ; he carried a large bag in one hand. 
" Oh, I see. So you are going to bolt at last," said Han- 
nington, softly. 

Kingscott smiled and shrugged his shoulders. 

" My dear fellow, you are too clever by half," he 
answered. " I am going to pay a short visit to London, 
that is all. Settle your affairs with Moncrieff as you 
please ; I shall arrange mine pleasantly enough." 

•' Excuse me," said Hannington, in a very determined 
tone. " You won't get off quite so soon as you think. I 



^iii 



n 



^ 



THE LUCk OF THE HOUSE. 



insist on your turning hark with nie now to Dunkcld, and 
being prestMU at my interview with Molly's father. We 
must have that matter of the robbery cleared up as soon 
as possible, as far as Molly is toncerned." 

'• I know nothing about the robbery. Appearances 
were against Molly and yourself. 1 only agree with Mon- 

crieff in thinking that you " He stopped short. Han- 

nington had seized him in a strong masterful grip and was 
shaking him as a dog shakes a rat. 

*' You lie ! " he said. '* And you know that you lie." 

Kingscott was apparently much the weaker of the two 
men. He was shorter and slighter than John Hanning- 
ton ; but Hannington was out of training, and had lately 
led a peculiarly exhausting and unhealthy kind of life. 
On the other hand Ralph was less courageous than his old 
acquaintance, and was inclined to make his way out of a 
difficult position by cunning, where Hannington would 
probably sink to brutality. His very lips looked pale in 
the waning light, while Hannington's face glowed with the 
burning red of anger and excitement. 

" Let me go, you great fool 1 " said Kingscott.* 

" You will come with me to Dunkeld, then ? " 

" Not I." 

" I'll make you." 

" You'll do nothing of the kind. Let go ! I tell you, I'll 
come back I " 

•* You'll come with me now and clear my wife's name." 

" How long is it since you have been so fond of your 
wife ? " said Kingscott, with a sneer. 

It was an ill-advised remark. Hannington's hand closed 
more tightly than ever upon his collar. The two men 
closed with one another ; in the struggle it soon became 
evident that Hannington's superior height and weight, as 
well as his frenzy of anger, told in his favor. Kingscott 
defended himself but feebly. He seemed to know that it 
was useless to contend for victory. 

" There you are ! " said Hannington at last, as he held 
his opponent down upon the ground and looked at him 
with grim vindictiveness. " I have you now. What will 
you do ? \Vill you walk quietly back to Dunkeld with me 
and hear what Moncrieff has to say to all that I can tell 
him? or will you take the thrashing that you deserve ? " 

" Neither," said Kingscott, viciously. 



THE I. UCK OF THE HOUSE. 



985 



Hannington had slightly loosened his hold. Kingscott 
wrenched his hand free and thrust it into an inner pocket. 
He kept his eyes fixed on his enemy's face : the savage 
hatred in them fascinated Ilannington's attention for one 
moment and in that moment he was lost. For Kingscott 
was now a desperate man. 

The report of a revolver rang out to startle the silence 
of the lonely hills. To the man ho fired that shot it 
seemed as if its echo would never die away. Although the 
lonely lane in which he stood was far removed from the 
h.ibitatiohs of man, he could not hut fancy that the sound 
would rouse the avengers of blood and bring them from 
scores of nooks and corners to punish the murderer for 
his crime. 

For Hannington had fallen to the ground and lay as one 
dead, while, for a moment or two, Ralph Kingscott — 
crouching beside him — watched and waited for any sign 
of life. But none came. 

Kingscott rose to his feet. With a shaking hand he put 
the revolver back in his pocket, picked up his bag, and 
stood still, looking and listening. There was not a sound 
to be heard, sav he chirp of a startled bird in the hedge. 
The grey sky seemed suddenly to have grown darker ; the 
wind was rising and rustled among the leafless branches 
of the gaunt brown trees. Kingscott shivered, and then 
laughed. Ke wanted to convince him.self that he was not 
afraid. " The sooner I'm off the better," he said, eyeing 
the body at his feet with strange invincible reluctance. 
** Is he dead f I'll look — no, I will not. What does it 
matter to me whether he is dead or alive ? My business 
here is done. At any rate I have paid him out for what 
he has made me suffer. I knew all the time that it was he 
who shot me at Torresmuir." He turned to go, but after 
taking a few steps, he returned to Hannington's side. " I 
might as well knowy^ he muttered, " how much mischief I 
have done." 

He moved the inanimate form, of which the face was 
hidden in the roadside grass, laid it on its back and placed 
his hand carefully on the man's heart. At first he thought 
that there was no movement of the pulse : but a faint throb 
made r.unifest by and by that life had not departed. In 
spite of his callousness, Kingscott felt relieved — not on 
Hannington's account, but on his own. To have com- 



A 






•16 



VNK t.rck' or thf notwF., 



mittrd a \\\\\n\vx wfts a c!i(TVrrnl thin" Oom having plnyrrl 
frt^t rttnl \\M>%c^ with his hruthfr-in Iftw n innney or thi owing 
Asprmions on thr rhrtmrtor of hi« nirtr. 

Wk'' t\nniM| suvuv nn»l %\xy^^\v Im^lily \\y Iho Une. Itrdid 
not wrtnt U\ hr m'i»n in iho high nvul now. lie would 
Rtriko m tons tho fioliln rtttd trtko rt doviouH rontc townrdn 
IMrtitgowrio, thonro to thr t^ortroRt srnnort town. He lurnnt 
to ntrtko the host of his wny to Sprtin. Ho ilinitppoAted 
it\to the gnthning drtrkness, thoiofon\ a\\([ U'ft John Hrtn* 
nington to his futc. 

I ho inj\nri! tn^n ]»oo.hmo ronsrions nOcr ft lime. He 
Uy rts Kingsiott hrtd left him, with his fdrottnncd tip to the 
riondy sky. Phc Mt was vory cold, And a r.hill nuinltncsn 
took the pini'o t>f pAitt. ttut ho tlid not yet pAss into 
insonsihihty ngrtiti. His tnind gvudnAlly Ao<niirod An ex- 
tr.ioidinitrv rlo.in^oss ; the whole of his pAst life seeinetlto 
\tnn>ll itself hefore hitu in the vivid light oAst l»> the nnnittg 
Mtenuty 1-or the first tin\e he j\iilged himself; for the first 
titne he wished thAt he ItAd his life to live over AgAin And 
Vtnved to hitnself thAt if txw oArthly fnttUT were pAnnl to 
hin\. he wo\dd spend it tlitTorontly. Ihit he ItAd no hope of 
hft\ Something in his sensAtions told him thAt he was 
doomed. He only longoil intensely thAt he might not die 
\vit4u>nt heing Ahle to sAy one word to Molly, to send a 
messAgi' to 1,Ady VAleneiA. to Ask pArdon from AlAit And 
his wit'e. He oaU ulAted the ehAt\ees of his heing found 
Aliw, And rated thctn very low. It was mote than pro- 
UaMo that he would lapse into tineonseiousness, And pAr..^ 
gxM\tly before morning frotn uneonseiousness to dcAth. The 
hitter eold was more than his stivngth e<>uld boAr. 

The proeess was AlrtMily he^inning when helpoAme. A 
Nvotking \\\M\ pAssed \tp the lAtu* frotn the high r^JAd to 
TontgArrow. HAnnit\gton hA<l hiwni the footsteps of sev- 
oral pAssengt^rs Along tlie ix>Ad, hut hAd known thAi it Was 
useless to try to sut\uMon help. He did not grcAtly care. 
His hiAin was hvootuing eonfused : it seemed to him as 
though A ploAsAut sleep were overtAking him, w»hen the 
trAt\ip of hoAvy t'ooistens roused him from the stupor into 
whieh he was fast fAlhng. He hoArd a man's voice, he 
heaixt the summons for nel]> ; he was painfully aware of 
being to\u IuhI, han<lled, e\amit\ed — and thet\ he ki\cw no 
n\oix\ Movement was torture, and a dead swoon Nvas the 
greatest blessing that his best friei\d eould have wished 
him then* 



•I 



77/A /re A' «»/•• TIfh IhWSK. 



i»7 



>wing 

trcUd 

tvould 
wrtnlii 
moAnt 

Han* 

H« 

to the 

^R inlo 
nn cx- 

ho ftrst 
I in rtnd 
aroi\ to 
l\o|>c of 
he wfts 
not die 

RlMUl ft 

n rtnd 
foniul 
n pro- 
id imr.s 
The 

no. A 
oftd to 
of sov* 
it was 
jr care. 
iin\ as 
|en the 
r into 
|ice, he 
arc of 
icw no 
as the 
ivished 



had had hi"* " last i hanro " tm oai th. ( )thoi < hanros iiiiiihi 
ho wailing for him olsowhoio, but for this lifo at It 



NVlun ho awoko to rnnsi ioiinnosM, Ik- was dindy nnr- 
prisoti to fiiul frtnilliar faros woio aluMil him. I !«• haH Imou 
oarrlcd to Porrosnuiir, hu tho man who ha«l dimovorrd 
hin\ know that ho hail maiiiod Ntr. Mc»u« lirfT's dan^hlor, 
and had takon it f»M- giantod ihal ho would lu> mirst'd at 
hij« father in law's hoimo. At anotlu-r lime some ondiar- 
rasHinont of loolinu ntight have l»(*on arotimd hy this turn 
of ovontH. Al thiH time, he <ould luit hrl »liunl»ly. iias- 
slvcly uraloful for tho oare and tho londornoss lavi'*hod 
\i)K>n Imn, and ri'now within himself iiu* dotormination ih.il 
if life wore spared him ho wmild make of it a «li(T« tint 
thing. 

Ihit this was not \ks ho. His hours wore lunnhorod ; he 

OS might 
least his 
time of probation had expired. All thai lu' rould tlo was 
to tnake the host of tho hours that roinaini'd. 

He lay for the most part in a cuoanu stale, not stifToring 
nuioh pain, l)\it growing weaker every horn. It seemed to 
him that he was wrapnod in a sort t)f mist, from whii h faces 
oceasionally emerged with puz/liug distiiuiness. They 
were all kind and friendly faoes hut he had not energy to 
respond much to the kindness. Now it was Stolla'.s wft 
eyes that rested on him pityingly ; he nuiso*! himself to 
ask her to forgive him for all that he had done. Then 
Alan Monoricff bent over him and asked him some (pies* 
tions, and to these he did his best to re|)ly. Ihit it was 
hard to ft\ his attention, to call his mind back from the 
floating mists in which it was enveloped. 

" Had Ralph Kingscott anything to (U) with this ? " 
Alan asked. There was a pause lor the feeble answer 
came : " It was all my fault." 

" All your Huilt? — you had quarrelled? " 

" It was about — Molly ; I can't tell you now. She never 
robbed you — nor did I. 1 believe that it was Kingscott." 
," Yes : I believe that it was Kingscott." 

*• You know that it was not Molly ? " 

" I know — I am sure of it." 

"That's right," said Hannington in a tone of weary 
relief, and then his eyes closed and the mist seemed to 
have engulfed him once again. 

AVhcn he opened his eyes they rested on Molly's white 
worn face. She was sitting beside him. 



•u 



THE nrcK OF Tff/-: llOirsfu 



'• Molly," he sftifl feebly. "Is it really Afo/iy f " 
••Yc%(ieftr Iiirk." ^ 



Will you forglvf 
When baby 
go?" 



"There's something I wah , .J sty. 
me, Molly ? " 

•• 1 forgave you ever so long ago, Jnrk, 
came I forgave you." 

"You'll let me see it — the baby — before I 

" She is here," saiil Molly. 

" I can't see it. Kverything is so dark." 

.She guided his hand to the little head o( the <'hild which 
was now given into her arms. Then he asked if he might 
kiss it. 

" It is a girl, isn't it ? " he said. " She'll be a < omfort to 
you, Molly. Simiebody told me what you were going to 
call her " 

" Valencia," said Molly softly. 

" Valencia : yes." A clearer look came into his eyes : he 
lay silent for some moments as if thinking deeply. " Molly," 
he said at last, very gently, " if I had lived, 1 meant to be 
a better husband to you. I wanted to be a better man. 
But 1 haven't the chance." 

" Dear Jack," she said, the tears falling Aist as she spoke, 
" I was not a good wife to you. I meant to l)e better too. 
Perhans God will take what we meant to do as if it had 
been done.*' 

" Perhaps," he murmured, and then lay very still. 

Molly was warned by the nurse that she ought to come 
away : she was not really fit to leave her bed, but she had 
been carried into Jack's room, so that she might sei' iiim 
once again. But before she went she had one more word 
to say. 

" Jack," she said, " is there no one whom you want to 
see ? " A sudden light came into his eyes. He looked at 
her eagerly, but did not speak. 

" I have sent for her," said Molly. " I know you loved 
her, Jack : but you love me a little too, do you not ? " — It 
was a piteous cry. But she was satisfied with his answer. 

" I love her in a different way, Molly. 1 never injured 
Aer. It was all so different. . . Child, forgive me — and say 
good-bye. I love you — you, my wife." 

But when they had exchanged the last sad kiss, and he 
was left with his nurses, it was noticed that he began to 
watch the door as he had never watched it for Molly's 



/7/A LUCK O/' THR tiOUSh, 



189 



coiniiig. I''.very houivI Hccnir;! to ngitntc liitn : (lie Mtiipnr 
wjiH vttrit'd by fits oi .'I'verisli rrstU'ssiioHs, in which he 
intirintirct! a iiitiiu- that waH not that nf hiH yoiiMK wife. 
He had IcanuMl, pt-rhaps, to hive Molly ; but he loved 
V'alcnria, as he had sai«l, in a very different wny. 

She was with hiiii r.t last. Her Hire rame ont of the 
mists and siniietl bravely upon him. She was nlwnyn 
couraueons, aitd she had made up her mind that she wotdd 
not distress him by lamentations. He was vaguely glad 
that she did not < ry as Molly did. 

'• Val," he said witli a hiinl smile of welcosne. " The 
end has come, you see." 

" Not by yotir own seeking, jack," she answered. She 
had knelt down beside the bed and was |)illowing his head 
upon her arm. A sort of instinet told her what was best to 
be done for him. 

•* No, not by my own seeking. I was trying to do what 
you told me." 

She suppressed a rry of agony. " As it has turned otit 
in this way, and you were trying to do right, Jack," she 
.aid, " I think that we must cone hide that — that it was 
God's will." 

'• For me to die?" said Jack, with a smile. "Well, I 
told you that it was the best way out of our diflfirulties. I 
want to say something to you, Val : hold my hand: don't 
let me go — don't let me die — until I have said it." 

•' No, Jack," she answered softly but firmly. " You shall 
not die until you have said all that you want to say I " 

•' You make me feel strong, Val. With you — with you— 
I should have been a better man. We are alone, are we 
not?" 

" Yes, dear." 

•* Tell me that you love me, Val." 

" I have always loved you — all my life. I shall lovo 
you till I die — and after death, to all eternity." 

•• And I—you, Val." 

Then quite easily and naturally, he !;< gan to speak of 
Molly. 

•• I would have been a better husband, if I had lived, to 
that poor child. She loves me, and I could have loved 
her and the child too. You will be a friend to them, will 
you no'i, Val ? I leave them to you." 

•• Yes, Jack. I will do all I can." 

19 



•90 



Tim LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



•'She will marry again," said Hannington quietly. •' Ruth- 
erford perhaps. I hope she will, ^u can tell her so, if 
evtr the occasion comes, Val. And if she has — other chil- 
dren, and this little one should be neglected, or If the child 
was left motherless, then vou — Va) " 

"She should be my child, then," said Valencia softly. 

" Yes that is what I wanted to hear you say, God bless 
you, Valencia. God forgive me /" 

The light was fading from his eyes : his voice was grow- 
ing very weak. She could barely hear his words when he 
mtirmurod at last. 

"'Kiss me, Val.*' 

She bent to kiss him, and received his last breath upon 
her lips. 



CHAP lER XL. 



THE LUCK RETURNS. 



The way in which John Hannington came oy his death 
remained for some tnne a mystery. Ralph Kingscott's 
Hight was not at first connected with it, except by Alan 
Moncriefi" in his own mind ; and the questions that he put 
to Hannington, and that others also jnit, had not been 
answered by the dying man with sufficient clearness to 
ensure certainty. 

Moncrieff became sure in his own mind that Kingscott 
was responsible for Ha rnington's death, but he sincerely 
hoped that it was by accid(Mit and that his brother-in-law 
had harbored no murderous design. The suspicions of 
other people were very easily allayed. It was not known 
that Ralph had met Hannington ; no one had seen him 
leave Torre smuir, and he went away from home so often 
that his absence did not excite remark. 

When Alan Moncrieff looked into his own affairs, much 
that had been puzzling to him was explained. The fraud 
and trickery of which he had been the dupe for years made 
him stand aghast. Ralph had gone on until discovery was 
imminent, and had then disappeared ; he had taken with 
him large sums of money — enough indeed, *o constitute a 
nice little fortune on which he could subsist very comfor- 
tably in a foreign land. Moncrieff, in the first shock of 



THE l.UCK OF THE HOUSE. 



991 



the discovery, was inclined to prosecute, but the publicity 
of a prosecution would have been very painful to the 
whole family, and it was decided that the matter h^d better 
sink into oblivion. 

About a month after Hannineton's death, however, a 
letter arrived which threw considerable light upon several 
points, it was addressed to Alan Moncrieff, and the post- 
mark was that of an obscure town in Spain. It was from 
Ralph Ringscott himself. 

'* Dear Alan," it began, with an audacity which almost 
took away Moncrieff 's breath ; "I have jusi learned from 
the newspapers that poor Hannington \? dead. I suppose 
he has told you how the afTair took f)lace, and I need not 
make any secret of the matter in writing to you, but for 
my own satisfaction I wish to tell you why I shot him as 
1 did. The act was not premeditated, but it seemed to 
me unavoidable. He brought it on his own head, by his 
utter obstinacy and stupidity. 

" To make you comprehend the matter from beginning 
to end would be too long a task ; I cannot undertake it. 
But I will give you a few renseignements, from which you 
may construct the story if you like. Mrs. MoncriefT end 
your children will probably supply details. 

" I must trouble you first v iih my reasons for staying so 
long at Torresmuir after Marie's death. Tie place was 
not interesting to m? ; your society was not that which I 
preferred — you were always too straight-laced for me — and 
the work that you expected me to do was deteslab!e. Add 
to this that I hate your climate, and you may well wonder 
why I stayed a month with you. My dear Alan, you for- 
get — you had always a knack of forgetting — that I was 
poor. You paid me what you considered a handsome 
salary, no doubt; it was enough for my wants if I had 
m3ant to live at Torresmuir forever. But I had dreams 
of my own. I wanted a competency. I wanted a villa in 
some warm southern place, where I could be all day in the 
sun, and get the accursed Scotch chill out of my blood. 
1 very early resolved that I would make. my fortune out 
of you, and would leave you as soon as I had done so. It 
took me a longer time than I anticipated, and involved 
me in various awkward complications, on which I bad not 
reckoned ; but my efforts have at last been crowned by 
complete success. If you will not meddle with me, 1 



k 



igi 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE, 



promise you to lead henceforth aitiost reptitabJe life. For 
obvious reasons, I do not give my address j I do not live 
here under my own name, and my personal appearance is 
considerably changed. I am safe enough in Spain — but 
then, I do not wish to reside in Spain continually. I 
should therefore very .uuch like your assurance that you 
will not endeavor to have me arrested when I leave this 
Country. You can manage to throw the police completely 
off the scent if you will. And really — is it worth while to 
put me in prison for the sake of a few pounds which I 
dare say you would have given me if I had chosen to ask 
for them ? Judging from your character, my dear Alan, and 
your pride in your family, I .cannot bring myself to think 
that you would stoop so far ! Send me a line to the 
address that I enclose, and I shall know what to do. 
' " And now to business. I resolved, as I said, to make 
a fortune out of you. To this end I sacrificed all that 
stood in the way. Your coldness towards your children 
gave me a great many chances. . You were so easily sus- 
picious of them that it was no hard task to throw blame 
on them a thousand times when they were perfectly inno- 
cent. I began with wishing to make a competency ; before 
long, I wanted your whole fortune. I resolved to make 
you cast off both your children, and leave your property 
to me by will. When that v/ill was made, I thought that 
you would probably soon give me possession of the estate. 
Because your affections are pretty strong, although you 
hide them with a coating of ice, and when your heart and 
spirit were broken, as I meant them to be, by your son's 
dissipations and your dau^'^hter's disgrace, you would not 
bear your unhappiness very long. You would either have 
gone out of your mind, under the circumstances, Alan 
iVIoncrieff, Or you would have committed suicide. Know- 
ing you as I c'o, I feel sure of that. 

' " My plans were succeeding admirably, when you — quite 
unconsciously — put an obstacle in the way. You engaged 
Stella Raeburn as a governess for Molly ; and, what was 
more, you fell in love with her almost from the beginning. 
I did my best to put a spoke into her wheel, speaking 
familiarly. I showed up her ignorance on several occa- 
sions with considerable skill, I fancy : I insinuated doubts 
of her capacity and of her good will ; but with very little 
effect. It was I, for instance, who managed that she and 



THE LUCK OF THE HQUSE. 



393 



lOi^rtie slioald.bs left together upon the island. I hoi>ed 
that the boy would make love to her — but he was too 
inexperienced, and you, by that time, were resolved to 
think I ill of her. You married her, and I knew that 
niy power at Torresmuir would soon come to an end. 

" I did my best again, however, and partly succeeded. 
I fostered Molly's love for Hannington, and devised their 
elopement I took the jewels and papers from your 
bureau, and dropped Molly's ring into one of the drawers 
— as Bsrtie can testify. That action would effectually bar 
her return, I thought, to Torresmuir. But your wife once 
more defeated me. She threw discredit on my character : 
she led Bertie to confess his escapades, and Molly — indi- 
rectly — to ask your pardon ; and although I told you the 
story of her previous engagemeot to Hannington and took 
care that you should see her letters to him, I knew that 
she would conquer in the end. Tne period of coldness 
between you lasted longer than I expected ; but when I 
saw that you were re:onciled, that Bertie had got under 
young Rutherford's influence, that Molly was back at Tor- 
resmuir, and that Hannington was expected — why then, 
I felt that the game was lost. If Hannington were to 
come and to find out that he and his wife had been sus- 
pected of robbery, I knew that he would fly into a rage 
and tell you a good deal more about me than you had 
ever dreamt of He knew of two or three little transac- 
tions which I had hitherto carefully kept from your ears : 
and if these were to be revealed, it seemed to me that I 
would rather be out of the way. Bertie's scrapes, too, 
were partially known to Hannington, and I did not quite 
like the idea of your hearing that I had been responsible 
for most of them — as he would doubtless have informed 
you. In the matter of the cheque, it is perhaps only fair 
to say — as I wish to do the handsome thing by you 
all in leaving the country — that Bertie was little to blame 
He had had considerable pressure put upon him, and he 
was so frightened of yourself, that he thought anything 
preferable to telling you the truth. 

"The game being up, then, I prepared for departure. 
What I did not reckon on was coming face to face with 
Hannington in the lane that leads to Tomgarrow. He 
was in a tremendous rage over the story of the robbery, 
which Lady "^''alencia Gilderoy had told him, and accused 



29^ 



THE LUCK OF THE HOUSE. 



me of plotting to throw disgrace on Molly. Then he 
insisted oh my coming back with him to Dunkeld, to 
meet you and to clear Molly's name. I saw immediately 
that this would not suit my book at all. I had ^studied 
time tables to some purpose. If I missed a certain boat» 
I might not be able to get away to Spain for two or three 
days, and I was not certain how you would take Hanning- 
ton's revelations. I knew that I had, strictly speaking, 
brought myself within reach of the law. I did not want 
to wait on Scottish soil, and be confronted with the tale 
of my own misdemeanors — besides running the risk of 
prosecution for embezzlement if you were in a particularly 
savage mood. It was absolutely necessary then, for me to 
get away. 

" Hannington was difficult to deal with. He insisted : 
I refused. He attacked me in his usual brutal way — 
knocked me down, and tried to extract from me a promise 
that I would go with him to Dunkeld to meet you. I had 
a loaded revolver \n my pocket. The temptation was too 
great. I got my hand free, and I fired. I meant to wing 
him only — but at a short distance one does more harm 
sometimes with fire-arms than one intends. I can, how- 
ever, assure you that I meant only to disable, not to kill, 
him. I ascertained that he was alive before I went on my 
way, and I knew that he was sure to be found and taken 
to your house before long. I amused myself with pictur- 
ing the menage that would be formed at Torresmuir — with 
Jack Hannington as a reformed character being lectured 
by Madame. It was quite a shock to me to hear that the 
poor fellow was dead. 

" I have now told you the whole story in outline, and 
you can fill in the details as you please. . have not suc- 
ceeded in my main object, but I have not done very badly 
for myself after all. The only thing that I want now is 
your assurance that I am safe from prosecution for embez- 
zleriient, fraud, robbery, or whatever you like to call it,. 
and that you will not make the contents of this letter 
public, so as to bring suspicion upon me with regard to 
Hannington's death. In return for tiiis assurance, which, 
for Marie's sake, I think that you will give, I will set your 
mind at rest on a point which once disturbed you more 
than you would allow — the fate of that stone which went 
by the name of ' The Luck of the House.' 



ui 



THE L UCK OF THE HOUSE, 



295 



ind 
mc- 
[dly 
is 
oez- 

it^ 
Iter 
to 
:h, 
>ur 
)re 
knt 



" It was I who took it' away (as, by the bye, Molly, with 
unusual acumen, always suspected), and for two reasons. 
First I wanted to have the stone tested, as I had a notion 
that it might prove more valuable than we thought. But 
in this 1 was wrong : the stone was intrinsically worthless. 
Secondly, I knew that its disappearance would perplex 
and, perhaps, distress you, for the family superstition had 
never been eradicated from your mind. In this I w^s 
right. 

" I am quite willing now, however, that you should have 
the stone, if you can find it. In a fit of unreasonable 
vexation at its worthlessness, I flung it out of a window 
in tne Tower, into the midst of a thickly growing bed 
of bracken. It may be there yet, for aught I know. If 
you can find it, you are welcome to it, and to all the luck 
that it may bring. ' 

• '* I have now told you the whole truth, and I think that 
you can afford to let me pass from your notice and from 
your memory. You are not likely to hear of me again. 

"R.K." 

Moncrieflf read this letter with a feeling of rage and 
shame of which he found it difficult to rid himself. All 
Stella's persuasions were needed before he could resolve 
to send Kingscott the assurance that he would take no 
steps to make the matter public; but he did so at last, 
under the conviction t'lat for Molly's sake it had better 
remain unknown. The robberies he could forgive : but it 
was hard to pardon the man's vile plotting against the 
characters of Stella and of Molly, or his cold blooded 
murder of John Hannington. These he could never 
pardon, but he refrained from vengeance, and was content 
to leave his enemy to the inevitable disappointment and 
remorse which Time alone could bring. 

A search was made for the stone, but proved unavailing. 
It must have become embedded in the earth and over- 
grown with vegetation, and probably, Moncrieff said, 
rather regretfully, would never be found at all. He 
declared that he had no superstitious feeling about it in 
the very least, but Stella fancied that she could read a 
little regret in his honest eyes. 

Molly mourned her husband bitterly, but she was young 
still, and her heart had, after all, not been broken. There 
came a day when Captain Rutherford, after two years of 



2g6 



THE LUCK Oh THE HOUSE. 



patient waiting, found her alone in the garden at Torres- 
muir, and asked her if she could trust him to make her 
life happy, and if she could ever consent to be his wife. 
And Molly did not say no. 

In the days that were to come, when a troop of children 
made gladness in Rutherford's house, and Molly was 
proud of their beauty and their noisiness and their mirth ; 
even then John Hannington's foreboding was not justified, 
ills child was never neglected, never set aside for any of 
the new comers. Her mother and her stepfather had 
indeed a special tenderness for her ; she was their darling, 
and in due time their helper and their comfort. But they 
never grudged her to their old and true friend. Lady Val- 
encia. In her house, little Valencia Hannington spent 
many weeks every year ; she was Lady Val's greatest 
interest in life. Many people said that Lady Valencia's 
great wealth would some day be left to her namesake, and 
that Val Hannington might yet be one of the richest 
women in England, but that day does not seem likely to 
dawn just yet. For Lady Val is as strong and brisk and 
active as she ever was, and the only trace that her great 
sorrow has left upon her is a wistful sadness in her beau- 
tiful eyes, and an ever increasing tenderness for the lonely, 
the sorrowful, the weak — and perhaps, we may add, the 
wicked — of the earth. 

With one more scene from the life at Torresmuir, our 
story will fitly end. 

It is a bright summer morning, and Stella and her hus- 
band stand on the terrace, discussing their plans for their 
day, reading their letters and openmg their newspapers, 
after the pleasant fas^'.on that obtains at Torresmuir on 
sunny mornings, when the post comes in. Presently 
Stella turns her head, and laughs for very happiness. A 
sturdy little fellow, with great brown eyes, comes stum- 
bling and panting up the slope of the hill towards the ter- 
race, with something tightly clasped in his dimpled hand. 
Master Alan makes his way straight to his mother, throws 
himself upon her with exuberant affection, and then dis- 
plays what his hand contains. It is an oddly shaped stone 
— something like a lump of dull glass — and at sight of it, 
Mr. MoncriefT utters an exclamation of pleasure and sur- 
prise. 

" Where did you find that, my boy? " he asks. 



THE LUCK OF TBE HOUSE, 



*97 



Alan the younger explains in broken Enp'ish that he 
found it in the grass,. and that he thought it *pitty," and 
wanted to bring it to ** Muzzer." 

*' It is a good omen," said Alan Moi crieff, with a smile. 
" Stella, this is the stone that was lost. The boy has 
found it at last." 

Stella, with her child in her arms, turns to him, smiling 
also. 

" So he has brought back the luck of the house ? " she 
exclaims. ^ ^ 

But Alan suddenly looks grave. " No, no," he answers, 
in a softer tone, as he puts his hand upon her shoulder, 
and looks into her eyes. ** That came long ago, when 
you, my Star, brought us your sweet presence, and the 
love that has brightened all our lives. Then you brought 
back to us, Stella, ' The Luck of the House.' " 



THE END.